Lawmaker Seeks To Ease Credit Hour Surcharge For Some Florida College Students

Feb 13, 2018

Florida students who find themselves with excess credit hours might soon catch a tuition break. A move is underway to roll back a policy that could charge them double-tuition.

WFSU News intern Shawn Mulcahy hard at work on a story for the nightly show, Capital Report. 2/13/18.
Credit LHatter / WFSU News

Shawn Mulcahy goes to Florida State University. He’s a double major—political science and communications and in disclosure, he also interns with WFSU News. And he's about to be hit with a big penalty next year.

“I believe its double tuition," he says." Currently I’m paying $3,500 a semester, so, twice that.”

Right now, Shawn's tuition bill is around $7,200 for the fall and spring.  And he’s dreading next year, calling the increase daunting.

"To shell it out while in college while paying for my own apartment and food and books, it just seems like unnecessary stress.”

So, how’d he get into this situation? Well, he started out as a music major at Florida Atlantic University, but transferred to Florida State and, “they didn’t evaluate my credits right and I was delayed entry to my major for a year, so once I was finally in my major I racked up more credits and I added another major so I’m a double-major now and it just racked up even more credits.”  

Each course Shawn takes is worth a few credit hours. And when he graduates in the spring of 2019, he will have racked up about 150 hours, well above the present cap in state law. But help might be on the way, from Republican Representative Amber Mariano, whose House Bill 565, "increases the excess credit surcharge limit from 110 to 120 for students studying in STEM and health fields.” 

That would be Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-based program majors. Mariano tends to advocate for college student-issues, being one herself. And her proposal would raise the current excess hour surcharge from 110 percent which would be around 132 hours, to 120 percent, closer to 144 hours. And there’s another exemption as well, "to students who are able to graduate in four years.”

That could mean Shawn.  

“I just want to get an understanding of the rational for the surcharge in the first place," asked Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation.

“I think the policy was enacted to keep students from essentially being professional students," Mariano replied. 

The Florida legislature for years now has been looking for ways to get students through college faster. The longer they stay, the more it costs. But not all academic programs are the same, and some are more stringent and less forgiving, than others.

“If your political science like me, you have a little time to figure out what you want to do but if you’re engineering and you change one little thing, you get stuck," Mariano says.

But now it appears lawmakers are ready for some leveling. Mariano’s proposal cleared its Appropriations hearing unanimously, and its Senate companion is slated for a hearing in that chamber’s budget committee Wednesday.