Students taking extra units may face new fees

    Students who take more than 110 percent of units required to graduate from UCs and CSUs may have to pay extra fees under a proposal put forth by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If passed by the UC Board of Regents, the Excess Units Fee Policy would affect California-resident undergraduate students who enter as freshmen or transfer students in fall 2005.

    The funding compact signed last spring by Schwarzenegger and UC President Robert C. Dynes indicates that the state will not pay the university to support an undergraduate whose credit units exceed a specified threshold above the minimum necessary to complete the bachelor’s degree. In an effort to ease budget complications and honor the articulated threshold of 110 percent of required units, both the University of California and California State University systems have been asked to develop policies dealing with excess unit fees.

    “If we do our work right, this won’t be a terrible burden or issue for most UCSD students,” Associate Vice Chancellor of Undergraduate Education Mark Appelbaum said. “If students continue to plan ahead and keep their eyes on the target, they won’t have a problem.”

    A draft of the policy states that the fee would be equivalent to the marginal cost of education of an academic year. It would be charged on a per-unit basis up to the normal course load of 12 units per quarter, at which point it would become a flat fee.

    Fee assessment would begin no earlier than the 2007-08 academic year, and the university would not provide UC financial aid for years in which the student surpasses the unit limit. However, students would continue to be eligible for outside financial aid from federal sources or private agencies, according to the proposal draft.

    Both Appelbaum and the UC Office of the President have said that the proposal is still in its infancy and further details should become available as they are worked out in the next two to three months.

    “[This] is a collective, system-wide process — undergraduate deans, the council of vice chancellors, Board of Regents and others will offer their input and the Office of the President will eventually declare a policy,” Appelbaum said.

    Under the proposal, summer would not be included in determining the total number of enrolled quarters, but the units earned by completing UC summer coursework would be counted toward the limit.

    The draft notes that exceptions may be made to raise the unit threshold, but only in individual cases that can be justified in academic terms.

    Appelbaum said he is working closely with other administrators to ensure that all students get at least four years to pursue their degrees.

    “Every student has four years before anyone starts looking to kick him or her out,” Appelbaum said. “Each student, however, will have a different number of maximum units depending on their college and major.”

    The details for double majors have not yet been finalized, he said.

    The governor’s office did not respond to calls requesting comment.

    Several students said they were concerned about the proposal.

    “I think it’s ridiculous that they want to penalize us for striving to be well-rounded people,” said UC Berkeley junior Tracey Ross, a double major. “They are continuously making our educational system into some sort of factory, just trying to get us in and get us out. They don’t realize that we are being shaped by knowledge and experiences.”

    Revelle College junior and double major Erik Laurinovics said his opinion of the plan was mixed.

    “There’s a fine line between wanting to learn more and hanging around too long,” Laurinovics said. “I understand why they want to do this, but it makes it difficult for double majors and students who go [into college] undeclared and don’t decide their major until the end of sophomore year.”

    Appelbaum emphasized that the proposal is an effort by the state to help alleviate California’s precarious financial situation.

    “This is not generating a surplus that will go somewhere else,” Appelbaum said. “This is simply an attempt to reduce our state deficit and offset the budget cuts.”

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