State senator to introduce bill to cap overload fees

Rex Santus

State Sen. Tom Sawyer is planning on introducing legislation to cap student course overload fees at state universities.

Kent State, beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, will charge students $440 per credit hour they register after 17 hours.

“Some university officials call the practice of charging overload fees the ‘new normal,’” Sawyer said in a press release. “In certain cases … these overload fees can exceed the marginal cost of providing an additional credit hour of education.”

Provost Todd Diacon indicated at an April meeting that the state’s refusal to provide adequate funding to public universities is “the new normal.”

“The state is not going to bear the cost of higher education, but the users are,” Diacon said. “And you are the users.”

Sawyer said this practice is not a new one, but he believes it is unfair.

“School officials justify these fees on the grounds that they are needed for long-deferred capital maintenance costs,” Sawyer said. “[But] unfairly applied ‘overload fees’ are simply ‘ambition penalties’ that serve as disincentives for students to pursue a second major or to graduate early.”

Under Sawyer’s bill, Kent State students would pay $275 per credit hour beyond the full-time load, instead of the $440 they are expected to pay.

This number is calculated by dividing the number of credit hours registered by the dollar amount the university charges for a full-time load.

Sawyer noted the bill would provide funding relief to public universities in exchange for capping the overload fees.

The proposal appropriates $31.5 million in capital funding for deferred maintenance at public universities, which, Sawyer explained, is the amount universities raise in overload fees.

This legislation only addresses one aspect of what the senator calls the “student debt crisis,” but it is an important aspect to acknowledge.

“My hope is that this legislation will be a point of initial departure for addressing the broader issues of rising college costs and student debt loads,” Sawyer said.

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