Regents Looking at Plan to Charge Some Students More for College

Heeding the call of state legislators, Regents are taking a closer look at three methods to shift the direct costs of higher education to the student.

Currently, resident students pay roughly one-third the cost of education. U students taking 15 credit hours pay $1,500 a semester for tuition, and taxpayers pay for the remaining $3,200. But state fiscal analysts suggested students?not taxpayers?need to bear the brunt of the costs when they take certain remedial courses, retake classes to improve GPAs or take more classes than required for graduation.

Instead of paying $386 for a three credit-hour course, some students could be charged nearly $1,500.

For a student, the difference in costs is extremely significant, but for the system of higher education, the changes would create “chump change,” U President Bernie Machen said.

Regents and presidents discussed the proposed changes during the state Board of Regents meeting Friday at the College of Eastern Utah.

Presidents from state schools spoke out against the proposed increases, but Regents said they feel the Legislature will perhaps make the changes if the Regents don’t act first.

No decisions have been made yet and Regents expect to discuss the three proposals further in May.

Repeated Courses

If Regents change the current policy, students who retake classes may be charged the full price of education.

“We can’t expect taxpayers to pay for students to retake classes,” outgoing Regent Chairman Charlie Johnson said.

States like Florida have already adopted such legislation. State lawmakers hope the extra charges will discourage students from taking excessive courses and decrease state expenditures.

During the discussion, Utah Valley State College Kerry Romesburg said, “I don’t like the idea of charging a student twice as much as other students.”

Utah State University President Kermit Hall suggested that until Regents estimate the amount of potential revenue the change would create, they should postpone further discussion.

Extra Hours

The state fiscal analysts suggested that students who take more than 115 percent of the credit hours needed to graduate pay the full cost of education for the extra hours, but Regents said the analysts’ suggestions were too strict and raised the number to 135 percent.

Under the Regents’ proposal, students who need 120 hours to graduate would have to acquire more than 162 credit hours before they would be charged the excess cost.

State analyst Boyd Garriott criticized the Regents’ leniency, asking them to return to the suggested 115 percent.

At the lower level, Garriott projects higher education would raise more than $1.6 million annually from those costs. It would also encourage students to graduate sooner, he said.

“Our suggested 135 percent figure reflects the fact that students are likely to change their majors more than once during their college experience,” said Cecelia Foxley, state commissioner of higher education.

“I can understand the rationale for this, but I don’t agree with it,” Machen said. “I am in the business of education. I think this measure is punitive, and I don’t think it will accomplish anything.”

Southern Utah University President Steven Bennion said, “This would affect many non traditional students. Many women who come back to school after raising children would face difficult circumstances trying to squeeze in the classes needed for graduation without going over, because the courses taken in their youth would carry over.”

Bennion suggested that more money be put into counseling to guide students to a prompt graduation instead of charging students who take extra classes.

Remedial Courses

Regents and presidents agreed that charging students the full cost of instruction for remedial courses is a bad idea because it would disadvantage those from lower socio economic backgrounds.

Lawmakers suggested that colleges charge students the full cost of education who score so low on standardized tests that they don’t qualify for introductory courses and need remedial instruction.

“We are talking about social engineering at a very dangerous price. We will turn away hundreds, if not thousands, of students from our system. This is a really, really regressive and dangerous policy,” Romesburg said.

Regents and presidents seemed to agree that charging extra for remedial courses was a bad idea and decided to plan to try and improve the quality of high school instruction to solve the problem.

[email protected]