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News Clips 01/16/2013
FGCU provost proposes 'pajama tax' for online courses
Source: Naples Daily News, 01/16/13
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By Brittany Shammas
The convenience of taking courses online may start coming at a price for Florida Gulf Coast University students.
Provost Ron Toll said Tuesday he plans to ask the Board of Trustees in June to approve an additional fee for the online classes. The extra money is needed to expand the university's online offerings, he said.
"Future trends show that online delivery will be more ubiquitous nationally, and we need to stay ahead of that curve," Toll said during Tuesday's Board of Trustees meeting.
Of the state's 11 public universities, only two — FGCU and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University — do not charge a distance learning fee, Toll said, and FAMU offers very few courses online.
FGCU administrators are still deciding on the amount to propose, but other universities in Florida charge between $30 and $60 per credit hour, the provost said. The cost per credit hour at FGCU is about $202. The additional online fee would be added to that.
Student Government President Peter Cuderman said he sees two sides — he doesn't like to see any fee being charged to students, but FGCU needs to stay competitive.
"As we're looking more and more into being innovative, we need to have technology that's going to compete with all our peer institutions and not just in Florida, but across the nation," he said. "You're always going to see a higher cost there."
Whether the university moves forward with the online fee depends on its funding situation.
Administrators have put addressing FGCU's funding inequity at the top of their list of legislative requests this year. FGCU is funded less per full time enrolled student than the other state universities, an inequity that university officials have fought to change for years.
"We've reached a point where there's no more resources to be found to support online courses," Toll said.
The university spends about $719,000 annually in distance learning on administrative costs, software, hardware, professional development, course development and the learning management system, he said. That number does not include faculty salaries or benefits.
"Face to face courses are obviously more dependent on the physical classroom, the brick and mortar provision for students and faculty to get together," Toll said. "Distance learning requires much more in terms of development."
Seventy percent of FGCU students took at least one course online in the 2010-11 year. That's significantly higher than the state average of 40 percent and national average of 31 percent — a fact Toll attributes to a large offering of online courses, faculty that embrace distance learning and requirements that some courses be taken online.
The classes are popular among students because they are easy to squeeze into their schedules, the provost said. A significant percentage of the students enrolled in online courses live on campus.
For them, the new fee would be what is known in higher education as a "pajama tax" — an additional charge for the convenience of taking classes in their pajamas, Toll said.
"Students are generally not opposed to it because they gain the flexibility of having a high quality education any time of the day or night in their pajamas," he said.
In other FGCU news:
Trustees unanimously approved an agreement with the university's neighbor, Miromar Lakes LLC, which had filed legal suits against it because of its future development plans. The agreement stipulates that Miromar Lakes will drop its suits and FGCU will hold to restrictions that include limits on building design and heights and lighting.