By Harrison Howe
The Cost of Indecision
Can't decide on a major? Considering taking a wide range of electives as a way to explore all possible avenues? If you're entering a Florida public university this fall, answering yes to these questions could cost you in the long run. A fee is being increased at these universities that will in essence penalize you should you take an excessive amount of credits (115% of what is typically required to earn a bachelor's degree).
Some say students who stay at school too long cost Florida money, to the tune of millions of dollars annually ($62 million in fiscal year 2004-05) in the way of increased state higher education expenses according to the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). Others say that Florida public universities have rising enrollment numbers and growing waiting lists, and that students who take too long to complete their studies are taking up valuable room.
An OPPAGA study in 2004-05 found that about 40% of students graduated with more than the number of credits needed. The excess hour fee, proponents say, is meant to discourage students from taking class after class without a definitive plan in mind. But others see the added fee as a discouragement for students to continue going to school at all.
The argument is made that many students at large public universities, where classes tend to fill up rather quickly, are forced to take classes in other areas as a way to maintain their full-time status and financial aid benefits. And the new fee is also expected to hurt students who transfer from community colleges, as all of their transfer credits may not be in classes directly relating to their majors, in addition to students who might switch majors more than once during their college careers. Credits taken toward a double major or earned from high school Advanced Placement classes are not subject to this fee.
Perhaps one student put it best when he told the Orlando Sentinel in July, 2011: 'After you buy two sodas at Publix, they don't start charging you more for each soda.' For incoming freshmen at Florida public universities, they will need to decide pretty early on which flavor of soda they want, and avoid sampling all the different beverages offered.
Education Insider takes a closer look as to why many students are taking longer to complete their college education.