Lawmakers to Debate Controversial Block Tuition Proposal for Universities

When lawmakers begin the spring legislative session next week, they’ll take up a controversial proposal to charge a flat rate for college tuition. Universities say the so-called “block tuition” program will encourage students to graduate faster, but students call the plan a rip-off.

Charles Richards is a community college student going back to school to get a business degree. Like many students, he hates the block tuition proposal to charge full-time students a flat rate of 15 credit hours a semester even if you take fewer classes.

“They’re going to charge Bright Futures and the Prepaid Tuition plan the full 15 hours also despite whether you’re going nine or 12 hours. That smacks of fraud to me.”

The block tuition proposal is also likely to include a tuition hike that could be nearly 50 percent at some schools.

But colleges and universities say students would have more incentive to get through school in four years if it affected their wallets, and a four-year graduation plan would be in everyone’s best interest.

Florida students frequently take five years or longer to get a four degree. That clogs classes and costs the universities more.

Florida State University Provost Larry Abele says setting a flat rate would help universities better serve students and plan their own budgets.

“The commitment of the state to funding higher education is just not there anymore and therefore students need to move through in a timely manner and four years is not unreasonable to get out.”

Students like Charles Richards aren’t sold. Student Government Associations around the state are vowing to fight the block tuition proposal when lawmakers take it up this spring.

Some legislative leaders have been reluctant to tackle tuition changes because of a dispute over whether setting tuition should be left up to the university’s Board of Governors. A lawsuit on the issue is pending in circuit court. The Board of Governors endorsed the block tuition proposal last fall.