More credits mean more fees

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Madelain TiganoThe Corsair

Thinking about changing your major?  You might be penalized for that decision under a new state law that went into effect this school year.

The Florida Legislature passed a 2009 state law (FS 1009.286) stating that students who enter a community college or state university for the first time in the 2009-2010 academic year, and thereafter, will be required to pay an excess hour surcharge if they go over their set limit of credits.

“Our job at the college is to advise students that they may get excess credit charges when entering a university,” PJC’s Director of Admissions and Registrar, Martha Caughey said.

 PJC students will not experience these charges while enrolled with the college, but could after they transfer to a university.

FS 1009.286 explains that students seeking a bachelor’s degree will be required to complete the credits needed for their degree times 120 percent for leeway: bachelor degrees total to be 120 credit hours, multiply that by 120 percent, and students will have 144 credit hours to reach their degree before getting charged an extra 50 percent of university tuition for each excess credit hour taken.

“We would take all of the things you need into consideration and ‘set your clock’,” University of West Florida’s Registrar, Ann Dziadon said.

Dziadon explains that universities will only take PJC’s transferred credits that are needed for a student’s baccalaureate degree program. Once a student transfers credits, the university will then determine what additional credits are needed for his or her degree and multiply by 120 percent.

However, a general studies associate degree could generate excess charges once enrolling into a university.

“If a student came in with 60 hours of undecided credit from PJC, just a General A.A, and then decided to go into, let’s say, Electrical Engineering, which is a very tight program with a lot of required prerequisites….the student might still need an additional 80-100 credits,” Dziadon said.

University’s tuitions are all different, but UWF averages about $80 per credit hour. If students were to go over their “set clock” of credits, then they are looking at an additional $40 on top of each credit hour.

“The people who are going to get caught and have a problem are people who, once they enroll here, change their major frequently, change their major to something totaly different, withdraw from a lot of classes, have to repeat a lot of classes for whatever reason, or just decided they want to take courses just for fun,” Dziadon said.

PJC sent a Pirate e-mail titled “Excess Hours Advisory Statement” on March 16 that stated “all students whose educational plans may include earning the bachelor’s degree should make every effort to enroll in and successfully complete those courses that are required for their intended majors.”

The Florida Legislature passed this act to provide “incentives for efficient baccalaureate degree completion,” the statute said.

However, there are exemptions from excess charges: college credits earned through an articulated accelerated mechanism; credit hours that are earned through internship programs; credit hours required for certification, recertification, or certificate programs; credit hours in courses of which a student must withdraw due to medical or personal hardship; credit hours taken by active-duty personnel; credit hours required to achieve a dual major taken while pursuing a baccalaureate degree; remedial and English as second language credit hours; credit hours earned in military science that are a part of Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs.

All colleges and universities in the state are required to notify students about the new bill upon enrollment in the institutions and later, for a second time, when students have earned their required credits before excess.  

“UWF hasn’t had anyone hit [surplus],” Dziadon said. “I would imagine the first person to hit will be maybe next year sometime.”