Newly developed fee aims to save law students money

By: Melissa Caceres / Staff Writer

A new fee is being developed for students at the College of Law, though with more emphasis on saving them money instead of costing it.

Recently approved by the FIU Board of Trustees, the new Test Preparation Fee brings lower costs for prep courses such as Kaplan and Barbri used by many law students in order to study for the Florida Bar Exam.

Based on actual tests costs, the fee amount could range from $100-$3,000 and only apply to students who, as part of their graduation requirement, are expected to obtain specific preparation for a practice based exam, according to the Florida Board of Governors website.

“It’s hard for a student to write a check for $5,000 straight out of law school,” said College of Law Dean R. Alexander Acosta, who proposed the mandatory fee to the BOT. “With this, it becomes part of the cost of your education.”

The Test Preparation Fee, as part of a degree program requests, is said to “increase the accessibility of students to test preparation courses and to lower the cost of the preparation courses through negotiated contracts.” By including the fee as part of their degree requirements, students may be eligible to pay for the course through financial aid.

“Most university students will be taking these prep courses and by including it as part a required program, we can lower the cost by doing a contract negotiation or perhaps eventually even offering these programs ourselves,” said Chief Finance Officer Kenneth Jessell, during the FIU Board of Trustees meeting on December 9.

According to the request sent to the Board of Governors, there have been informal focus-group discussions with students on the desirability of the fee and the results “have been very positive.”

“As long as the rate is better than if I came on my own and it’s a part of my financial aid, I’m all for it,” said Iris Elijah, a third year law student at the FIU College of Law.

In Florida, a complete bar review course with Kaplan, one of the leading companies in test preparation, would cost $3,245. The application needed for the Bar Exam is $600, if the student applies early and $1,000 when they do not. Also, there is an extra $100 fee for those who wish to use their laptop during the test.

“Once you graduate, you face the cost of applying to and sitting for the Bar which is equal to almost a semester of tuition and that’s a lot of money for students,” said Acosta. “The test prep fee will make sure that studying for the Bar exam is affordable and will help make sure they get the best possible rate because we are now negotiating on behalf of all our students.”

While the extra fee will be mandatory automatically, students shall have the option of being excluded; which can be done by filling out the needed paperwork.

“As long as the rate is better than if I came on my own and it’s a part of my financial aid, I’m all for it,” said Iris Elijah, a third year law student at FIU who plans on practicing entertainment law.

Currently, the University is waiting to hear from the Florida Board of Governors for its final approval of the fee.

“FIU is about providing the students with the best possible education at a reasonable cost. That can’t just be in class,” Acosta stated. “We also have to think about what the students need to do to become lawyers and this is a large part of it.”

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