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More units, extra cost for some

Overachievers, beware: You may be in for an unpleasant surprise when the bursar’s bill arrives.

The Excess Units Surcharge, enacted in 2005 by the Arizona Legislature, charges a per-unit fee to undergraduates who have not yet earned their degree and have completed 145 units or more. The surcharge is per semester and differs for residents and non-residents.

The legislative body in 2005 viewed students accumulating “unnecessary” and “excessive” course credits as “inefficient” progress toward baccalaureate degree attainment, according to Katie Paquet, associate vice president for public affairs and external relations for the Arizona Board of Regents. The surcharge was enacted so dollars appropriated by the state are maximized for students working toward degree attainment, Paquet explained.

“The surcharge is a mechanism to offset lost state funding for these students,” she said.

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Alex Yang, an aerospace engineering senior slated to eventually pay the surcharge, said the policy sends “mixed signals” to students. This is because general education classes “supposedly diversify our education,” he said, which is why students like him and others chose to take extra classes.

“I want to be more well-rounded with more subjects than just what I am required to study,” Yang said. “It (the policy) makes me think that it’s all about the money and not about the supposed inefficient use.”

Currently, 13 students who do not meet any of the policy’s exemptions are paying the surcharge. Elizabeth Acree, an enrollment manager at the Office of the Registrar, said that out of the handful of students who get “caught” in the policy, four or five will question it and want an explanation. In the scope of 39,000 students, she explained, that is “not a lot.”

Acree said that the policy is often situational. There are times when students continue to take classes and don’t progress, she explained, but there are students who have legitimate reasons and often want to pursue their academic career by learning as much as they can.

There are eight exemptions, which include things like degree programs that require credit hours above the “credit hour threshold,” credits earned in the pursuit of up to two baccalaureate degrees, credits transferred from a private institution of higher education or from an institution of higher education in another state and credits earned in the pursuit of a teaching certification.

The surcharge is calculated to be 20 percent of tuition for the academic year. This is why it varies per unit depending on if the student is a resident or nonresident.

While the 2005 Legislature viewed exceeding the credit threshold as inefficient, some students think otherwise.

Yang added he was unaware about the policy until a friend brought it up to him. Acree said the UA does not have a mechanism in place to notify students who are approaching the 145-unit benchmark.

Amanda Fahey, a pre-journalism freshman, said that she has not heard about the policy and does not think students should be charged for going “above and beyond.”

“These students are taking their education further,” she said. “We are paying enough already.”


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