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State funding may derail planned ‘pajama tax’

Students taking online classes need to look to the legislature for answers about distance learning and the fee that may soon befall them.

“We have asked the legislature to provide us with $13.5 million. We believe we are funded disproportionately lower than virtually every university in the state university system of Florida,” said Provost Ron Toll in a phone interview.

The proposal, which may be presented to the Board of Trustees in June, would recommend that FGCU start to charge a fee for online classes. Christina Nissen, a junior majoring in environmental science, said the additional charge could affect her financially and that the fee is unwarranted.

“I think it would affect me definitely, because I at least take one online class a school year,” Nissen said. “I don’t really see the need to charge an extra fee for online classes, especially since an actual class isn’t being held.”

Depending on legislative appropriations, however, Toll said students may not have to pay the notorious “pajama tax.”

“If we were to get that full 13 and a half million dollars, it could very well work out that we would not need to charge this fee and we wouldn’t ask for the fee,” Toll said.

During the Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 13, it was revealed that FGCU is the only state university that does not charge an additional distance-learning fee. If the fee is approved, Toll said FGCU’s tuition is still reasonable.

“Our tuition and fees at FGCU….are very near the bottom as related to all 50 states in the United States,” Toll said. “We are a very, very low-cost system in terms of tuition and fees as measured by nation standards.” Toll also said if the fee is approved, it would be minimal, possibly costing students one fee per course.

“We haven’t arrived at the final number, but we could be looking in the neighborhood of $25-$50 a course, but we don’t have a number,” Toll said. “I’m presuming it would be in that range.”

Although Toll acknowledges that a distance-learning fee could create new hardships for students, he thinks those challenges are the price students pay to learn.

“There’s always the balance between high-quality education and what the cost of that is going to be,” Toll said.

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