Florida Students Protest Proposed Tuition Change

PHOTO Students at the University of Florida protest the school?s block tuition proposal

"With the exception of Gators football, I have not seen anything in my years at UF that has united the student body quite like block tuition," wrote Ben Meyers, University of Florida's student senate president in a guest column in The Alligator, Gainesville's independent student newspaper.

Meyers' recent opinion piece is another effort to highlight students' frustration with the new tuition proposal. Since November, UF freshman Michela Martinazzi has spent more than 30 hours preparing signs, rallying at protests and gathering signatures for a petition — all to show her opposition to UF's proposed plan to implement what she calls an "unfair" tuition policy.

"It's almost called stealing, to have to pay for something you're not getting," Martinazzi told ABCNews.com.

Now, at UF, full-time students pay for individual credits. A student taking 12 hours per semester pays less than one taking 18. With block tuition -- also known as range tuition or flat-rate tuition-- full-time students would be charged at a rate of 15 credit hours regardless of how many class hours they're enrolled in.

In response to Florida's recent education funding cutbacks, UF has had to find ways to reduce costs and save money. In 2009, UF cut more than $40 million from its budget. Block tuition would provide a "reliable, predictable funding source," said UF spokesperson Janine Sikes. In addition, block tuition would encourage students to graduate on time by taking more classes each semester, she said. That in turn would open up spots for new students.

Students have voiced a different opinion:

"I hope students here will stand against this discriminatory proposal," wrote Mitchell Norton in a letter to the editor of The Alligator.

"Why should I be required to pay for something I don't use? Is this what UF is trying to set as an example of good business?" wrote Chris Moody.

In Defense of Block Tuition

With block tuition, students have an incentive to take more classes because they pay the same tuition regardless. "We actually tell students that if they're trying to make their education as affordable as possible, then that's a good way to cut costs and get your degree," said Dan Mann, director of student financial aid at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which uses "range tuition." Students are divided into four categories depending on course load and charged one flat rate for each category.

Jake Rosner, a social policy junior at Northwestern University, in Illinois, said, "I find it nice to be able to take extra classes and have your course load vary and have that as the norm, instead of having to pay a different amount each time."

Other schools that use some variation of a block tuition system are Texas A&M University, Truman State University in Missouri, and Ohio University.

Ferris State University, in Big Rapids, Mich., had a block tuition structure up until 2007. "It enticed students to take a heavier load," said Sally DePew, director of budgetary planning and analysis. "The good part of that is it encouraged students to graduate in a timely fashion. The bad part is that it burdens students with more than they could handle academically."

UF Plan Postponed

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