Surcharge raises education issues
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 3, 2012 14:09
Legislation passed in 2009 by Florida lawmakers will potentially affect UCF students starting this semester. The legislation dictates that students taking more than 10 percent more than a degree program’s credit requirement will be charged an excess surcharge for the extra classes. The percentage averages out to mean that students enrolled in a typical degree program that requires 120 credit hours will now be charged the fee if they exceed 132 credit hours.
The legislation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, its implementation is well intentioned and is designed to help students complete their degree within the traditional four-year time span. It will push students who are undecided in their major, especially incoming freshmen, to be decisive about their degree choice. UCF’s four-year graduation rate ranks at a poor 35 percent, and our school is no exception within the state university system. UCF will benefit from this legislation with regard to turning this statistic around. With the second largest population in the country, the administration should be concerned with what this statistic says about the quality and efficiency of UCF’s education goals. Measures need to be implemented to raise the four-year graduation rate, otherwise funding and efforts to expand the campus and university programs will not be taken seriously. If UCF can barely get its 57,000 students through in four years, why should efforts be funded to increase the population or stimulate interest in the university?
On the other hand, however, this excess surcharge may also deter students from exploring areas of study that interest them due to money constraints. It could possibly cause the university to lose that tuition money students would be willing to pay for the classes, because they are essentially being charged twice. Many students change their goals and evolve in their first year in college, and rather than being stuck with a degree and career path that doesn’t interest them they decide to change majors. An extra charge on top of “wasted” credits will hit students’ wallets especially hard. This comes at a time when financial aid is drying up and student loans are becoming a more daunting choice every day. The university’s goal to increase the four-year graduation rate must also be accompanied by changes to programs such as fine arts, where specific required classes are only offered once a semester or even once a school year. If a student cannot get into the class because it is full or because it doesn’t work with one’s schedule, this delays graduation even further. If the goal is to raise the graduation rate, the university needs to take steps to actually make this goal attainable for students.
Drawbacks to larger university systems such as this one may even push students to pursue higher learning on their own. Open-sourcing education is one of the most beneficial initiatives for students and society as a whole. Resources such as TED.com and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare provide anyone with the opportunity to expand his or her knowledge and are completely free. Students should feel empowered to look beyond institutional limits and the boundaries that are set by costs and fees. Degree programs can be extremely rewarding but also extremely limiting as this legislation shows us. However, the greater purpose behind higher education is to cultivate the best and brightest minds that will contribute to creating a better world, be it through education, engineering, the arts, research, technology; it all serves to benefit the individual as well as those around that person. This ideal should not be forgotten.