(Nicolas Floyd)

By

“The Great Compromise.” What used to be the phrase indicating the agreement to institute two governing bodies in America’s Congress now refers to an agreement about a topic that weighs even more heavily than politics on Eastern students’ minds-tuition.And for students taking online classes, tuition concerns are weighing more heavily in their pockets this year as well.

Because at Eastern, “The Great Compromise” indicates the exchange between university administrators and full-time undergraduate students of charging all online courses based on a costlier per-credit tuition model in order to keep the current traditional tuition model from changing to per-credit as well.

This new policy forces every student who is taking an online class to pay $358 per credit hour-for a three-hour course, then, a full-time undergraduate student would pay $1,074 in addition to the regular tuition of $3,312 for a total of $4,386. While this figure is still more affordable than most schools, there is more to the policy than just paying higher fees – students can no longer count online courses as a part of the required 12 hours in order to be considered full-time.

But despite the increase in the cost of online tuition and the refusal to accept online courses as a means of achieving full-time status, the problem with the new policy lies within its actual implementation. Even though the recommendation was brought forth during last year’s tuition forums, which took place in March and April, a decision was not officially reached and implemented until June, which was after students had registered for fall semester courses.

Emails were sent out to students on June 23 and 24, but other than that, publicity about the new policy seemed to be minimal. Many students had already been enrolled in online courses when the decision was made about online tuition. And it is unlikely that students on summer vacation are going to read their emails daily, so it is possible that some students didn’t even know about the new policy until they were charged an additional thousand bucks for that one online class.

And beware, students-if this is your first time hearing about the policy, you only have until Friday, Aug. 29 to drop an online course and get a full refund.

There are exceptions to the new online tuition model, of course. If a student cannot take a course needed for his or her major traditionally (meaning in a classroom setting), whether because all the other course offerings are full or the course is offered solely online, then exemptions can be granted.

But if this is the case, then isn’t it ironic that Eastern administrators are working harder to exempt students than actually enforce the new policy? If hundreds of exemptions have already been made, then is the new policy truly effective?

And during a time when mostly everything is going online-classes, news and social networking, just to name a few examples-Eastern’s new policy seems to discourage students from participating in the media age, which in turn seems a bit old-fashioned. Eastern officials say online courses are charged at higher rates because the courses are costlier to develop, and while this may be true, the fact remains that if Eastern truly wants to remain competitive with other universities in the nation, then expanding the school’s presence in the online market is crucial.

But university officials said the root of the policy is based on fairness to part-time undergraduate students, who are already paying per-credit hour for every hour they take. While paying for an online course per-credit may even the playing field between part-time and full-time students, is it “fair” to force students to take 12 hours of traditional courses in order to retain their full-time student status?

If the Eastern administration wanted to offer the same opportunities to both full-time and part-time undergraduate students, then it would seem more prudent to accept online courses as a stepping stone to full-time status, if a student chose to do so. But now, while part-time students can count online courses as three hours of credit, full-time students taking an online course in a 12-hour schedule are being robbed of several credit hours because the course is not being taught in a classroom.

“The Great Compromise” may be one of those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time issues, and fairness may be what Eastern officials thought was the guiding principle of the new online tuition model, but it looks as if fairness may be lacking in certain areas of the new policy.