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Florida universities have been hit with an implemented surcharge that forces students to come face-to-face with having to pay for excess credit hours taken. But one UCF student isn't taking the hit lying down.

Ramon Jimenez, a junior electrical engineering major, has created a petition and contacted state representatives in hopes of getting the surcharge law removed.

The excess credit hour surcharge was established to encourage students to complete their degree as quickly and efficiently as possible, but students are feeling rushed while their money is being drained from their accounts in a manner that they believe is unfair.

Universities are now required to add a surcharge to each credit hour taken in excess of the total number of credit hours required to complete the degree being pursued.

For students who have entered a state university for the first time as an undergraduate student between fall 2009 and summer 2011, the surcharge is 50 percent of the normal tuition rate. If a student started in fall 2011 or later, the surcharge is 100 percent of the normal tuition rate.

Florida statutes state that students who do not complete their degree within a certain amount of credits will have to pay a surcharge, and as a result students are finding ways to amend this surcharge.

According to his petition displayed on the website www.change.org, Jimenez aims to make a change to this law to not only help himself, but other students who wish to change majors and pursue minors.

When he first heard about the tuition surcharge from browsing his student account on myUCF, Jimenez said he was very shocked and stressed because he said he felt like the surcharge would take away the opportunity to explore different areas in college.

"This surcharge hinders the things I thought college was all about," he said. "I wanted to explore different fields and take a class or two in different engineering disciplines. It makes it harder for me to try and broaden my aperture in college."

After Jimenez noticed he was not alone in feeling this impact from the surcharge law, he decided to start his petition to get a large number of people to make a change and fight for something that they all believe is wrong.

His ultimate goal is to amend or remove the excess credit surcharge law, but Jimenez said he hopes to see individuals stand up for what they believe in and know that a difference can be made in the meantime.

In support of Jimenez's petition, senior character animation major Celia Calderon said she believes that the statute also penalizes transfer students who cannot go to the university directly.

"I understand that this statute was placed for students that continued to abuse the system and stay for an extended time than planned," Calderon said. "However, placing this statute causes more debt onto Florida students who work more than two jobs at a time to stay afloat."

Calderon said she noticed other students in her major who were also facing the same problems with the surcharge, so she decided to speak out against the high fees.

She found her way to Jimenez and offered tips to help spread the word, which is when Jimenez started his petition.

Calderon advised students to speak with their local representatives to explain the impact that the surcharge law has had on them academically.

Jimenez's petition has reached 1,500 signatures so far, and senior event management major Melanie Arcic is another student who has signed the petition in support of change.

Arcic said she is glad that Jimenez's petition is bringing awareness to more people, but she said she believes more students can make a difference by following up with the Orange County representatives.

"It just doesn't make sense that [students] should be punished for taking our time," she said. "I didn't mean to change my major a few times; I was just trying to figure out what was best for me and my future, and what would make me happy."

This past summer was the first summer Arcic did not take classes because she would have been affected by the surcharge.

"We are one of the biggest schools in the nation, and I just feel like if there was an event where the UCF community came together, we would get our message out there easier," she said.

Arcic suggested that UCF students should get together to accomplish something that will have a great impact in the long run, where a simple voice-of-opinion could make a huge difference.

To sign the petition:

www.change.org/petitions/florida-governor-remove-amend-excess-credit-surcharge-law

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