Florida Lawmakers Consider Graduation Incentive

One plan would give students a $1,000 bonus if they finish their studies on time with only a few extra credits. The proposal would also charge students extra if they take more courses than they need.

Florida State University sophomore Giselle Burke isn’t too keen on a proposal to charge her extra if she goes more than 20 percent over the number of credits she needs to graduate. She says she didn’t know what she wanted to major in her first year, and doesn’t want to be punished for it.

Giselle says, "I took a lot of different courses to try to see what I was interested in, and I don’t really think it’s fair to penalize students for doing that, because college is really a time that they get to figure out what they’re interested in."

Nearly eight out of 10 students graduate with more credits than they need. The downside of all that extra learning is it sets the state back $62 million a year in excess costs.

The other problem is many Florida campuses are overcrowded. It’s hard to get in and then you don’t know if you’ll even get the courses you need.

Sen. Lee Constantine says lawmakers have to do something.

“The people of Florida are subsidizing these students who already have enough hours to graduate, to stay in school. It’s time for them to move on and allow someone else to come in.”

Constantine’s proposal would give students who stay on track $1,000 rebate if they keep extra courses to a minimum, but they’d be charged out-of-state tuition for going 20 percent over what they need, typically six courses or more, but House Democratic leader Chris Smith isn’t sure that’s the way to go.

Rep. Chris Smith, (D) Ft. Lauderdale, says, “I don’t think there should be a punishment on students or citizens of Florida to learn more in the state of Florida.”

Still, other states have had success with similar programs and Florida students may soon be asked to pick up the pace, or pay up.

The bill to tack on additional costs to credits over and above graduation requirements still has one more committee to clear before it goes to the full senate for a vote. The bill would then need to pass the house before the governor could consider it.