Since an excess credit hour surcharge was implemented in 2009, those at UCF have fought the $1,200 students are forced to pay for extra classes.
In 2014, students collected thousands of signatures to petition the surcharge, and the Student Government Association Senate passed a resolution in opposition. And since Cait Zona began campaigning for her SGA presidential post in 2015, tackling the surcharge has been a top priority. Now, 2016 is here and so is the surcharge.
Zona has been a part of many discussions to alter the surcharge and says she’s still committed to facilitating even more in order to bring change to the sore subject, which especially affects students who switch majors, like junior Kaitlyn Sexton.
“Going from nursing to elementary education, there are not many similarities or classes that overlap,” Sexton said. “I’d say I’ve taken four or five classes that don’t count at all now, so it was a waste of money and time. I’m about two semesters behind now.”
For future courses, Sexton may have to pay double the regular tuition amount, as do those student who enrolled at a Florida university in fall 2011 or after. Once they’ve gone beyond the credit hour limit established for their enrollment year, these students are slapped with a 100 percent surcharge, according to the UCF Registrar website. Those who enrolled between fall 2009 and summer 2011, face a 50 percent charge, and those who enrolled before 2009 are exempt.
Although she believes the possibility of paying extra can deter students from switching majors, Sexton said she just couldn’t pursue a major that she wasn’t passionate about.
Florida statute states that the intention of this law is to encourage students to complete their baccalaureate degrees at a faster rate, which could come in handy at UCF, which students joke stands for “U Can’t Finish.”
In a previous interview, UCF spokesman Chad Binette said the school’s graduation rate has continued to climb over the years, with the most recent six-year rate, for students who enrolled in 2008, at 69.7 percent.
Jeff Stickel, a senior, is another student who’s facing extra charges due to switching majors. A transfer student, he ended up paying the surcharge fee for excess hours after switching from business to biology.
Although the surcharge is intended to encourage timely graduation, Stickel doesn’t see it that way.
“Why am I being punished for changing majors and exploring new fields to find what’s right for me? I thought that was the point of college,” Stickel said.
However, Beth Ganz, an academic adviser for transfer and transition students, ensures that students are informed about the excess credit hour surcharge during orientation.
In fact, she strongly encourages students to declare a major before the first day of classes so that only the classes that meet the requirements for their degree will be included in the original credit hour count.
Ganz added that students are also advised to only take courses required for their majors to avoid accumulating extra credit hours, and are reminded that if they decide to change their majors drastically it could affect their tuition fees.
Echoing Stickel’s concerns, Zona said she believes the surcharge has impacted students’ opportunities for educational growth. Stronger emphasis should be placed on student development and success, she said, rather than graduating on time.
“In my opinion, the credit hour threshold should be raised to give students more flexibility,” she said.
Nicole Dudenhoefer is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.