University of Florida Considers a Flat Tuition Plan

Barry Lenson

University of FloridaOver the last few months, this blog has been asking how colleges can expect to attract students when they charge a sultan’s treasure for tuition each year.  

America’s state colleges and universities are starting to get worried about that problem too. That could explain why the University of Florida has just announced that it is considering charging students a flat tuition fee that would let them earn 15 or more credit hours every year without paying additional fees. (Currently students pay by credit hour at most state and community colleges, with most students now taking about 12 credit hours a year.)

A flat tuition structure would allow students to take more courses, earn more credits, and graduate earlier. This structure is already in place at private colleges and universities, which generally charge a fixed tuition fee that does not vary according to the number of credit hours that a student takes. 

If the plan is passed, it would be implemented at the University of Florida, and could be rolled out to 10 other Florida colleges before long.  

There seem to be many reasons why the Florida schools are considering this change. Articles in the Miami Herald and the Gainesville Sun are skeptical, pointing out that the state schools are hoping to increase revenues by charging higher, “flat fee” tuition rates. And these articles claim that there’s another money-making reason for the change too – if more students graduate faster, that frees up space for new paying students. 

We suspect that the schools are thinking about something else too – the fact that letting students load up on credit hours gives them the opportunity to work harder and graduate earlier. And that sounds fair to us. 

But even if flat tuition is implemented at state schools in Florida – and even if it spreads to state schools in other states – we doubt whether it will do enough to make college truly affordable for a growing number of students who don’t want to bankrupt their families so they can earn college degrees. 

To keep college costs really low, some kind of new thinking is needed – thinking that looks a lot like what is happening at StraighterLine. 

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