RADFORD — Some Radford University students oppose a new policy that charges more for credit hours above a 16-hour-per-semester cap.
Starting next fall, students who take more than that will pay an additional $329 per credit. Students have publicly voiced their concerns with the new policy and the burden it will put on students required to take more than 16 credits per semester to graduate on time.
University officials support the policy as a way to better align a student’s curriculum with its cost. Spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs wrote in an email that students taking additional credit hours generate extra costs for the school.
“In lieu of charging all students greater levels of tuition and fees, this method allows for students taking more classes to pay the additional cost of their course load and related instruction,” Scaggs wrote.
President Brian Hemphill wrote in an address to the campus over the summer that the new policy would affect only 12% of the total student body.
Honors College students Hannah Stewart and Matt Shuma are aiming to get the policy overturned. Stewart wrote in a joint email with Shuma to The Roanoke Times that it should “be replaced with an equitable tuition policy without discriminating against certain students.”
Stewart, a senior biology and psychology major, said it also hurts students planning to double-major, pursue a minor or participate in research and internships, which often require additional credits.
The two upperclassmen held a forum attended by well over 100 students to discuss the policy. A recurring theme from other students who spoke at the forum was affordability.
Many shared their stories of barely making ends meet and about the burden of unexpected costs. More than a few said that if the policy was intact when they came to the school, they would have enrolled at other universities.
Wendy Kang, the director of finance policy and innovation at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, said there are different models used by public universities to determine tuition costs.
George Mason charges additional fees for anything over 15 credits, and Virginia Commonwealth’s tuition is paid for per credit hour but anything over 15 is half-price, she said. Virginia Tech doesn’t have a credit limit but charges extra fees for certain majors. The University of Virginia charges different tuition rates depending on the major.
Shuma, a junior majoring in biology, said he was concerned with the lack of transparency from the administration. The policy was passed by the board of visitors in early May, but Shuma said students didn’t receive notice of the change until a campuswide email was sent a week later.
Scaggs said the agenda for the May meetings was on the university’s website on April 29, more than a week before the May 9-10 meetings. Additionally, Scaggs said the university decided to hold off on implementing the policy until the fall of 2020 to provide additional time for students to plan for the change.
Faculty Senate President and Professor of Anthropological Sciences Jake Fox said faculty were not consulted on the matter. And as the faculty representative on the board of visitors, he said he wasn’t aware of the credit policy change until going to the May board meetings as the faculty representative.
Fox said a subcommittee has been formed to discuss the policy and hopes to talk with the administration to see if departments could possibly have time to rework majors so that students can graduate on time without the extra fees.