UMUC Student Decries a Costly Policy

(By Julie Zhu)
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dear Extra Credit:

I have a dispute with the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), the state program for nontraditional college students, over the tuition penalty fees it charges students for dropping a class. I was charged $562.50 in tuition penalty fees because I dropped three classes on the first day of the spring semester.

The only way students can avoid owing UMUC money is to drop a class before the beginning of the semester, which seems to be an unusual registration policy. Most universities give students a few days to see whether a class is a good fit.

Johns Hopkins, American and Georgetown do not charge students a tuition percentage for dropping a class until at least six days after the beginning of the semester. George Washington and the University of Maryland charge the full cost if students drop a course 35 or more days after the semester begins.

In contrast, UMUC expects full payment if you drop a class 21 days after the start date, at least one week earlier than most of the colleges and universities in the region.

UMUC's financial practices toward students is dishearteningly similar to those at non-degree granting technical and business institutes with less than stellar reputations. They cause undue hardship to students who are not receiving financial aid. The most uncomfortable aspect of UMUC's tuition penalty charge is that it seems as if the college is assuming that because most of its students work, they or their employers have the resources to cover not only tuition costs but also other UMUC fees.

UMUC offers late evening, weekend and online classes to give students every opportunity to complete their degree, especially when time is of the essence. Yet, its tuition penalty policy does not reflect UMUC's professed appreciation of the nontraditional students' truncated time schedule. Besides working full time, many students have familial responsibilities that can suddenly interfere with their ability to take a class and/or to remain registered for a class.

I think UMUC should give students at least two or three days after the start date to drop a class. It should do a better job of alerting students to those rules on its Web site.

Angela N. Levy

Silver Spring

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