Damielys Duarte/Assistant Opinion Director
Many students undertaking an online education are more than familiar with the distance learning fee FIU charges for every credit-hour taken online. However, many of us believe this fee is unnecessary and hinders online enrollment for students with financial insecurity.
For those who have never taken class online, the transition has proven difficult to acclimate to and some are blissfully unaware of the looming fees ahead. With the virus forcing all students to attend virtual classes, the fee has become an offensive oversight on FIU’s part to those students who maintain their online classification.
Our University isn’t alone in this. On Monday, May 4th, a grad student from the University of Florida issued a class-action lawsuit against the Florida Board of Governors—which oversees the state’s 12 public universities—regarding the lack of fee reductions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With millions of American families unemployed and struggling to make ends meet, FIU should not be one of the universities contributing to this burden with an additional $30 fee per credit hour for every online course—especially since those who take online classes might be motivated by health, family or financial reasons.
In addition, students with financial aid have been quick to point out that the additional fees are cutting into their book stipends, resulting in them having to pay out of pocket for class materials. Hence this unnecessary practice is negatively affecting financially insecure students for the continual profit of a multi-million dollar public institution.
According to Florida Statute 1009.24(17)(a), universities are allowed to charge a Distance Learning Fee for all online courses that generate fundable student credit hours.
However, FIU seems to be one of the very few public institutions that charges more for online classes than those on campus. A prime example is the University of Florida (UF), one of the top public schools in the state whose online tuition for Florida residents is set at 75% of standard in state tuition.
That means fully online students are paying 25% less in tuition—a logical conclusion, seeing how online classrooms require very little funding to remain operational unlike a real building, which requires maintenance and has a physical limit on how many students may congregate in one room for class.
Another university properly handling the distance learning fee is Florida State University (FSU). FSU charges online students a distance learning fee. However, tuition reflects several fee reductions and waivers to compensate.
I am still being charged a $100 health and $10 athletic fee this year despite the lockdown and my classification as a fully online student.
For starters, FSU waives fees for student health, transportation and facilities, and significantly reduces athletics and service fees for long-distance students. Meanwhile at FIU, I am still being charged a $100 health and $10 athletic fee this year despite the lockdown and my classification as a fully online student.
On their FAQ page, FIU does state that there is no “Distance Learning fee associated with classes being taught remotely because of the pandemic.” However, for students enrolled completely online, the university defends the fee as it “helps fund the infrastructure and team that helps deliver these [online] courses”—an ironic argument, seeing how these online courses are still paid for through tuition at nearly $200 the credit hour.
Despite FIU’s categorization as a state school (thus offering “affordable education”), as of late they have been unconcerned with their rising fees and cost and seem to be turning a blind eye to the students and families in need within its community.
We all know the affordability of online education, and FIU being one of the top universities in Miami should reflect that in their tuition for online students so as not to hinder the virtual classrooms of tomorrow.
Featured image by Jernej Furman on Flickr.
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