Changes in dual enrollment waiver handicaps budgets

Philippe Buteau/Editor-in-Chief

In spring 2013, a dual enrollment waiver is being applied in a new way, creating a ripple wave effect in student fees.

Initial projections for the activity and service fund, the total amount of money generated through the A&S fee, was about $16.1 million. After accounting for bad debt percentage and the dual enrollment waiver, the total amount of money fell to approximately $14.9 million, a $1.2 million difference and 7 percent less.

The amounts generated through the athletic and health fees and how much they are after accounting for bad debt and dual enrollment waivers were not available as of press time.

The bad debt percentage is a percent and half, which leaves the rest of the difference from the dual enrollment waiver.

The waiver is due to a Board of Governors regulation and Florida statutes which together make the cost of taking college courses free for high school students taking dual enrollment courses in any higher education institution in the Florida College or State University systems.

The statute says dual enrollment students are exempt from paying tuition and fees, and the BoG regulation says each university’s board of trustees are required to waive tuition and fees for dual enrollment students.

Dual enrollment students are charged tuition and fees but the waiver needs to be applied so the students are not held financially responsible.

“This would be no different from going into a department store where you had a gift credit for $50 and making a purchase for $50,” Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Jessell wrote in an emailed response to Student Media. “The purchase would be recorded on the receipt so the store knows what product was sold, removing the product from inventory, and then inserting the $50 gift card as a credit or ‘waiver’ showing a balance due of $0.”

This method, Jessell wrote, is the appropriate way to handle accounting for the student’s registration.

According to Jessell, University administration discovered they were applying the error incorrectly after noticing a “significant increas” in the number of dual enrollment students in 2012.

“We had historically only a few hundred students,” Jessell wrote.

In fall 2012 there were 4,601 dual enrollment students according to numbers received from Jorge Zumaeta, director of continued education and dual enrollment. Numbers of dual enrollment numbers from years prior have not been made available to Student Media.

In previous years the amount of money waived from the three fees was taken from the education and general trust fund, money generated through tuition and state funds. The process now is to take the waiver amount, or the total of what would have come from dual enrollment students, from the associated fee.

Meaning the waiver of the activity and service fee will come from that fund instead of the E&G trust fund, and likewise for the health and athletics fees.

The 2013-2014 budget for the athletic department, which also receives student fees through the athletic fee, will face an approximate cut of $615,000 according to Paul Dodson, assistant athletic director for media relations in an email to Student Media.

Dodson said the amount is based on the University’s enrollment as of April 2013, which could increase along with any possible enrollment increases.

“This effect of the waiver is new to the activity and service fee,” said Matilde Gramling, budget director for Student Affairs who manages the budgets within the Division of Student Affairs – activity and service, and health.

The main effect of this new process of applying the waiver is seen in the approximate 7 percent less money in the activity and service fee.

And the effect of the new process is felt in student government’s annual budget hearing and deliberation process in which they decide how much to fund the various student centers and student organizations at the University.

“They had less to allocate around,” Gramling said.

William Beesting, associate dean of Undergraduate Education, argued dual enrollment students who come to the University’s campuses to take their classes don’t participate in any student-led events.

“The vast majority of dual enrollment students do not come to make use of the activity and service fee, that’s why we don’t charge them,” Beesting said.

However that isn’t true, according to Pablo Haspel, president of the Student Government Council Biscayne Bay Campus.

“They do,” Haspel said. “Data shows dual enrollment students do attend events.”

Haspel said the University should either go back to the old way of levying the waiver, or find a better method of applying it to the activity and service fund.

“We can’t afford it,” Haspel said.

Laura Farinas, president of the Student Government Council at Modesto Maidique Campus, was not available as of press time.

“It’s like taxes, if you don’t pay them, you shouldn’t be allowed to reap the benefits,” said Alex Castro, vice president of the Student Government Council at Modesto Maidique Campus.

Lauren Ledlow, a political science major and former dual enrollment student, feels the waiver has a negative effect to the University.

“Tuition is already free for dual enrollment students so paying a few extra dollars to support student activities shouldn’t be a big deal,” said Ledlow. “It looks like the exemption is hurting the school more.”

Additional reporting by Mariella Roque