Block tuition: classes on sale?

Ronnie Rodgers

The Florida Statehouse. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The Florida Senate passed a bill which would make all Florida universities use block tuition as soon as the fall of 2018. The bill still has to go through the Florida House of Representatives, but the legislation could have a huge financial impact on administrators and students.

Block tuition is buying four classes and getting a fifth class free. So students would take 15 credit hours a semester (five classes), but pay for 12 (four classes). Students can also pay for 15 credits (five classes) and take 18 credits (six classes).

By essentially giving the fifth class free, students would be paying the university about 20 percent less per semester in tuition and fees. Even though one class would be free, schools may raise tuition in order to compensate for the financial gap block tuition would create.

Each university would have to develop a plan for their school if the bill passes due to the financial implications. UNF did not disclose a plan if the legislation were to be enacted.

“The university is aware of the proposed legislation but at this time we aren’t prepared to propose any specific plan(s) for block tuition until both final legislation and guidance is provided,” said Joanna Norris, UNF’s public relations director.

The university would still have to provide the same services for students with only about 80 percent of their current funds from tuition. Some fear schools will make up for lost revenue by raising the price of tuition or fees.

The average student takes six years to complete their bachelor’s degree, according to Complete College America. Block tuition would act as an incentive for students to finish their degree in four years instead of the average six.

“The university presidents told me…that they don’t like having fifth and sixth-year people on campus in four-year programs,” Senate President Joe Negron, and block tuition advocate told reporters. “My goal is to say there should be no financial penalty for a student taking 15 hours.”

UNF is above average, but students still aren’t quite fishing their bachelor’s degrees in four years. The average first-year UNF student takes 4.8 years to complete a four-year degree, according to UNF associate provost Jay Coleman.

Part-time students could potentially get the short end of the stick. If a student was only taking 12 credits they would be paying the same amount someone who took 15 credits. That doesn’t sit well with some students.  

“We’re getting the same education at the end of the day, from the same professors. I don’t feel it’s fair because we’re all getting the same education when it boils down to it,” said Lexi Watson, a sophomore biology major. “I don’t feel that me taking less classes is a legitimate reason to charge more [per credit hour]…we’re broke college students they should have some sympathy for us and our bank accounts.”

Bethany Pruitt plans to finish her bachelor’s degree in three years, but wouldn’t want to overwhelm herself with too many classes. Students who do take advantage of block tuition may be enticed to take more classes than they can handle because it’s free and run the risk of performing poorly the class.

“[15 credits is] all I can handle and have on my plate right now. If I was a full-time student maybe [I’d attempt 18 credits], but right now no,” Pruitt said.

The senate passed the bill with a 35-1 vote. It will enter the House for further deliberation.


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