Credit surcharge seems to have minimal effect on graduation rates

An excess surcharge statute designed to help students graduate within four years has made little impact on graduation rates.


char Pratt

Alexis Hayward | Web Assistant

Ha’ani Sumerix, Contributing Writer

Six years after Florida statute 1009.286, known as the excess surcharge statute, was implemented into Florida Atlantic University’s education system, graduation rates are still below average.

The statute was implemented by the Florida legislature to “encourage students to complete their baccalaureate degree as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

However, the bill is anything but encouraging to students, requiring a surcharge of 50 percent for every credit taken above 120 percent of their program’s allotted number. It goes for any student entering FAU after the fall of 2009 who has exceeded the amount of credit hours established for completing their degree.

The requirements for the statute have continued to rise, resting at a surcharge of 100 percent for every credit above 110 percent of their program after the fall of 2012. This means that students who are attending FAU longer than four years will be subjected to pay double the cost for any course they take, which is $402.58 for Florida residents and $1,439.68 for non-resident undergraduates, according to FAU’s cost of attendance for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Any students that withdraw from a course, drop a course after the drop/add period, fail or repeat a course or have credits earned from another university are at risk of falling under the excess surcharge statute.


Senior neuroscience major Emily Spindel shares a similar story to many FAU students. Spindel had to retake her organic chemistry course over the summer of her junior year and was charged $1,000 – double the original amount of the course. Since she was required to take nine credits over the summer, Spindel had to work extra hours at her job to cover the course. She expressed her frustration over having to balance more hours at work and school. She stated, “It was a crazy amount of money and I retook the class over the summer and financial aid doesn’t cover summer. So, for one class I was paying a lot of extra money.”

Senior communication major Nicole Archon was also charged the excess surcharge fee after withdrawing from her Spanish course twice for personal matters. Now, she will either have to take out loans or transfer out to another school if she hopes to graduate. “It’s a vicious cycle that penalizes those that want an education if they aren’t 18 and they don’t have mommy and daddy to pay for four years of school,” stated Archon.

The excess surcharge statute designed to help students graduate has had minimal effects on the graduation and dropout rates for FAU’s undergraduates. According to the State University System’s Board of Governors, FAU performed poorest in percentage of freshmen who graduate within six years, ranking at 40 percent with a 30 percent dropout rate for freshman entering FAU – a small percentage increase from the graduation rates before the statute was implemented.

From 2005 to 2011, graduation rates were at 41 percent with a 40.5 percent dropout rate. From 2006 to 2012 there was a 39.8 percent graduation rate and 39.6 dropout rate. Finally, from 2007 to 2013 there was a 39.4 percent graduation rate with a 40 percent dropout rate according to the estimates made by the Florida Atlantic University Admission and Retention Committee in April 2014.

In comparison to other Florida Universities:

FAU Student Body President Michael Cepeda attributes the low graduation rates to improper figures and unorganized system processes due to the inadequate leadership of former FAU President Mary Jane Saunders. He stated, “Last year the leadership was not always in sync … we might not have lost the 7 million to begin with if we had the proper data.” However, Cepeda expects dramatic improvements thanks to the newfound leadership of FAU President John Kelly, stating, “Dr. Kelly has fixed those holes this year. He works great with the faculty and staff to make things run more fluid.”

FAU has managed to increase graduation rates by 5 percent, according to FAU’s Assistant Provost for Academic Operations James Capp who stated, “Considering the fact that a huge portion of our student body are part-time students or full-time workers with other obligations, 5 percent is tremendous increase over one year.”

The proposed improvement plan for FAU’s performance-based funding model scores is moving forward under the direction of President Kelly. The plan implements six strategies to help graduation rates at FAU, as well as maintain second year retention rates; it has been approved by the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors.

The university has installed Starfish, a new advising software called “Success Network” that allows students to see notes and areas of improvement, as well as make appointments and monitor their success to produce seamless advising overall. Advisers have also put out a “student flight plan,” which is a step-by-step roadmap of exactly what courses or academic milestones students need to pass in order to graduate.

FAU also started a “Jump Start” program last summer for undergraduates that had below a 3.0 GPA, but wanted to continue their education in the fall semester. New students coming into FAU are asked to complete a career exploration module called “Major Knowledge” in order to encourage students to pick a major early on in their college career, since it correlates with graduation success.

“Major Knowledge” has successfully helped students declare majors for 96 percent of students in the spring and 99 percent of students at FAU. The university has also launched a bachelors of general studies degree program, which offers students an option to obtain a degree from a variety of concentrations intended for students who could not graduate with their original degree of choice.

Lastly, FAU hired 23 new advisers, making a ratio of 300 students to each adviser – a recommended number from the National Academic Advising Association to ensure a personal connection.

FAU is looking to comply with the excess surcharge statute despite many students being overcharged without much effect on graduation rates. The surcharge definitely hits hard at FAU, since the campus population consists of students with a wide range of ages that have multiple responsibilities but still want to attend school.