UF officials, students at odds on block tuition

The university wants to charge a flat rate for a range of credit hours.


Published: Monday, November 1, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.

University of Florida officials made the case Monday for charging undergraduates a flat tuition rate, while students suggested the change would diminish the college experience.

Facts

Board of Governors meeting

The Florida Board of Governors meets Wednesday and Thursday at Emerson Alumni Hall. The board votes on the block tuition proposal at its full meeting, which starts Thursday at 10:45 a.m. For more information, visit www.flbog.org.

The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, votes Thursday at its meeting at UF on allowing universities to charge block tuition and fees. The change would mean students pay a flat rate for a certain range of credit hours, rather than the current system of paying per credit hour.

At a panel discussion at UF organized by students, Provost Joe Glover said block tuition would provide students with an incentive to graduate in four years and open up spots for others.

"Our objective is really to encourage a quicker progress to graduation and towards a degree," he said.

Under one option, students would pay for 15 credit hours if they take anywhere from 12 to 18 credit hours per semester. UF students now take an average of about 14 hours per semester.

Some students said the change would mean they take extra classes that lower their grade-point averages, reduce their ability to do extra-curricular activities and cost them financially.

"It doesn't consider students who have jobs and have to work in college," said UF senior Virgil Mathis, a 21-year-old environmental science and religion major.

If the board passes the measure, it would still need to clear a few more hurdles before being implemented. Officials say UF is the only state university seeking the change and would likely implement block tuition in fall 2011.

UF had block tuition until 1974, when the state changed to a credit-hour system for all its universities. Glover said returning to block tuition would mean up to $5 million in additional annual revenue for UF.

The money would be reinvested in increasing course sections and faculty, he said, as students take more classes.

"This is not a program to generate revenue," he said.

Glover pointed to a recent study showing that UF students spend 11 hours a week on academics outside the classroom, which falls below other universities.

Agricultural and biological engineering graduate student Sanjiv Jagtap bristled at the suggestion that students were lazy.

Jagtap, who double-majored as an undergraduate in agricultural and biological engineering and economics, said students often gain more from extra-curricular activities than their classes.

"Different people take away different things from the college experience," he said.

Block tuition would not mean major changes to financial aid and would actually benefit some students economically, said Karen Fooks, director of student financial affairs at UF. Students spend about $10,000 per semester on costs that include tuition as well as rent and room and board, she said, so graduating in a more timely manner will save them money.

"It's kind of costly to decide to delay your graduation," she said.

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