On Friday, Nov. 16, UVU hosted the Utah State Board of Regents along with related committees, subcommittees and representatives from all the institutions of higher education in the state. At the meeting, the Board approved changes to tuition and fee policies in an effort to increase the number of students who graduate in a timely manner.
One of the major changes to incentivize students was a decrease in what has been called “allowable excess credit hours.” With the current policy, a tuition surcharge amounting to double the current year’s tuition rate is applicable to a student who has reached 135 percent of the credit hours needed to graduate.
With the changes approved by the regents, that number will decrease to 125 percent in an effort to discourage students from continuing education without completing a course of study that leads to a degree.
“While we want to support the issue of tax payers not paying for too many credit hours. At the same time, the 66 percent goal says we are trying to graduate people,” said Greg Stauffer, Associate Commissioner of Finance and Facilities.
The “66 Percent Goal,” also known as the “Big Goal,” is an effort in Utah to have 66 percent of men and women ages 25-64 in the state earn a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020.
“Excess credit hours is not a problem for the vast majority of students,” noted Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler in a news release from the Utah System of Higher Education. “However, the Board does want to encourage students to focus their efforts and decide on a major as soon as is practical and then move toward that goal.”
The change in allowable excess credit hours comes in response to a legislative audit conducted last November regarding the current policy. The audit found that the policy was vague and seldom applied. The board plans for the new policy to remedy those problems.
The changes to the policy now dictate that institutions are required to notify students of the policy and encourage them to complete their degrees in an efficient and timely manner.
“In the end, the excess credit hour part took a full year to get us there,” Stauffer said. “There were a lot of questions and a lot of concerns about changes to that policy, keeping the appropriate balance. It says institutions may charge at 125 percent, not must.”
The policy does account for potential increases in credit hours. Institutions are allowed to make exceptions in specific cases in instances of the requirements of a particular course of study, double majors, dual degrees and other similar situations.
Though the possibility of educational redundancies was never addressed, the issue that many classes in areas of study may cover the same material — costing the student time, tuition and credit hours — remains a low level problem to be handled by the institution’s administration.
Alex Sousa is a Utah native, a freelance writer, and a constant adventurer.
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