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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Opinion

Don’t punish students for academic zealousness


UH appears honest in its own pride, and the University is authentic — for the most part. It’s a reasonably-priced Tier One university, and with education being both pricey and necessary, UH is a haven for the financial majority.

Yet in these days where details are often scrutinized to the point of harsh critique, there is a slat of shadow over the image of UH.

Affordability is one of the main draws at UH; therefore, one would justifiably be shocked to find that tuition changes based on a student’s course load.

According to uh.edu, the course load minimum for a full-time student is 12 hours. On the other hand, the maximum course load ranges from 12 to 18 hours — depending on classification and status with the University. One would think that for a full-time student, the price should remain the same as long as one falls within the accepted range.

Texas A&M University, along with UH and the University of Texas, is one of three Tier One universities. According to tamu.edu, full-time students — those who take between 12 and 18 credit hours — pay the same amount of tuition as long as they fall within the designated full-time parameter.

Such is not the case at UH.

Here’s a made-up example based off the cost calculator at uh.edu: John Smith is a full-time student at UH. He is a resident of Texas and a junior in the College of Architecture. Smith decides to take 12 credit hours for the Spring semester of 2015, resulting in an estimated tuition of $4,617 per semester.

Now take the case, also made-up, of Jane Doe, who is in the same situation except that she is taking 16 hours. Doe will pay an estimated tuition of $5,997 per semester, essentially making four credit hours worth more than $1,000.

The issue here is that a full-time student is now discouraged to do as they see fit in relation to course load. A student may feel they could take 18 hours in one semester and not only survive, but thrive; however, if students don’t have the extra $1,000 to take one more class, that ambition is shattered.

American education is diseased, with rot in the marrow and poison in the brain. And change does not seem to be happening for students.

Fortunately, many people — ranging from students to politicians — are talking about the issue. Talk may be cheap, but it is better than nothing, and it could be the first step before action.

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said he was sending Congress a “bold new plan” to extinguish the cost of community college. This is the direction in which all components of the educational system should be moving, but instead, there are many obstacles slowing things down.

Similar to the fixed rate for full-time students at Texas A&M, there is a program here in Houston called “UH in 4.”

This plan rewards participating full-time students who graduate in four years by offering them a fixed tuition rate.

UH officials in the Division of Administration and Finance said that only first-time-in-college students, who have chosen the fixed-rate tuition option, will have a fixed-rate tuition per semester.

Students who are not on the plan will have to pay a varied amount dependent on major, number of semester credit hours, residency, specific course fees and other variables.

“Most fixed-rate tuition plans assume a student will take 30 hours a year for four years, allowing them to complete their degree in four years,” said UH officials. “This is a great option for some students, but for a variety of reasons, it may not be the best option for all of our students, such as those working full-time jobs or those taking fewer than 15 hours.”

The University, which claims to be “committed to creating an educational environment in which student success can be ensured” is flawed, but UH is not the only one.

UH does have a good reason for its tuition-by-the-hour rate, and its “UH in 4” program is a good alternative, but the fixed-rate plan is only offered to incoming freshman or transfer students who want to go to college for four more years.

The result is many upper-class students and transfers who have to pay as they go; therefore, it comes down to the oft-realized fact that things are not where they should be.

As with most issues, UH is not the enemy; it is merely trying to get along the best it can.

A student who has the ambition and confidence to take up to 18 hours should be encouraged to do so and applauded for such composure. This determination and subsequent success among students should be the goal for all universities.

Opinion columnist Henry Sturm is a journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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