Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


The Tuition Battle Continues

Florida universities will have the power to set tuition rates for out-of-state and graduate students as high as they want, under a new bill approved by the Legislature during its latest session that ended May 6.

This bill and a mandatory five percent tuition raise for undergraduate students were two of the many tuition-related proposals discussed and voted on by the Legislature.

Before these new tuition hikes, FAU tuition rates had already gone up. For the spring 2005 semester, in-state undergrad students paid $103.07 per credit hour while graduate students paid $232.10. Out-of-state tuition was much higher, with undergrads paying $519.95 and grads paying $869.48 per credit hour.

State officials say that these tuition raises are necessary to keep up with Florida’s greatly expanding student population, especially with waning financial support from the state. They note that Florida has always had low tuition rates compared to most states.

Two of the more controversial measures proposed were a block-tuition program that would charge students a flat rate of 15 credit hours (the average FAU undergraduate takes 11 credit hours per semester), no matter how many classes they take, and a plan to make students pay more for taking “extra classes” after they have enough to graduate.

Supporters of these measures, including Governor Bush, say that block tuition and excess hour plans will encourage students to graduate faster and make room for others. Also, they say it is fairer for Florida taxpayers, who pay about 75 percent of a college student’s school expenses.

“This is not about punishment,” said Sen. Lee Constantine, (R) Altamonte Springs, the “extra class” bill’s sponsor. “We need to reach the kids who continue to stay in school when they no longer need to be there. I think student’s will see this and say, ‘I’m not paying more than I should. I’m going to graduate and become a productive member of society.’ “

Some professors argue, however, that students shouldn’t be rushed through school without time to explore the possibilities or gaining additional skills that are not part of their required work.

Robert Watson, a Political Science professor at FAU, agrees that these plans are not in the student’s best interests. “How many 18 and 19-year-olds know exactly what they want to do?” he says. “It’s ridiculous to rush them. I don’t know many students who just take classes to waste time.”

FAU President Frank Brogan said that although it’s important to get students through school quickly, “the cookie-cutter approach to the issue could hurt FAU,” which (according to school records in 2004) has more than 20,000 part-time students (compared to its 14,000 full-time ones) and a large non-traditional student base. Furthermore, the average student at FAU switches majors three times.

Brogan and FAU’s Board of Trustees (BOT) have met numerous times since early last year to discuss block-tuition plans and other tuition-related issues. In a meeting last August, BOT Chairman George Zoley recommended that FAU support a block-tuition plan on a trial basis. Brogan agreed, saying that FAU must look at alternate ways to fill classrooms and assist students to graduate at a faster rate. However, former Student Body President Alvira Kahn expressed concerns about block tuition because she said it would not work with the diverse needs of FAU’s student body. The BOT passed a motion saying that if the Board of Governors (the committee that oversees Florida’s 11 state universities) considers block scheduling, FAU would be willing to participate in a trial program with a select group of students.

For now, FAU students won’t have to worry about any block-tuition programs because the Legislature rejected the proposal. However, it did pass the extra classes plan, which will charge students more than twice as much for tuition after they have accumulated 24 credits more than they need to graduate.

Tom Barlow, FAU’s Intergovernmental Relations Director, said that Governor Bush has 10 days to sign the bills the legislature passed into law once they “hit his desk.” He explained that this process could take anywhere from three weeks to a month because the Legislative staff has to sort through everything, put it in order, and type it up. Rejected plans or ones that the governor chooses not to sign will return back to the Legislature for debate in later sessions.

“Just because something is struck down doesn’t mean it’s history. There is always a second chance for these kinds of things,” says Barlow.

Although the block-tuition plan was rejected this time around, Barlow is confident that it will have a second, third and even fourth chance.

“There are going to be a slew of block-tuition proposals next year; you can count on that,” he says. “This is an issue that university and state officials have been working with for years. We haven’t seen the last of block tuition.”

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