Texas Senate approves bill benefiting returning students

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If criteria are met, students would avoid penalty through drop rules.

By Wally Perez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

The Texas Senate voted in favor of a bill Thursday that would lift the burden of increased tuition costs to returning college students who have exceeded credit hour rules.

Senate Bill 1782 would eliminate dropped course restrictions for adult students who wish to return to college if they meet certain criteria. An institution will be able to permit a student to drop one additional course if they meet certain criteria.

The Senate approved the bill by a 28-3 vote. State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, authored the bill and presented the committee substitute during a Higher Education Committee meeting April 19.

The substitute is an amended version of the original bill that was recommended by the committee.

West said the original version of the bill did not include exemption for the three-peat rule for returning adult students, or for students who enrolled at different institutions and accumulated 15 credit hours and dropped out.

The final version of the bill moves up the effective bill date to June 1, 2018, from Sept. 1, 2017, because the previous date did not provide enough time to get the bill in place if passed.

West said 48,000 Texans have completed 90 semester credit hours toward a four-year degree and current statue places formula restrictions on the number of repeated or dropped courses accumulated beyond a student’s degree plan.

“These restrictions are meant to encourage timely degree completion but can be a barrier to adult non-completers wishing to return to higher education,” West said during the meeting. “The restrictions on formula funding can create a disincentive for institutions of higher education that aids these students in returning and completing their degree.”

The bill would allow returning adult students with at least 50 credit hours completed, who haven’t been enrolled in school for at least 24 months, a one-time opportunity to enroll without penalty.

West gave examples of these penalties through the 30- and 45-hour rule, which penalizes students who exceed the number of hours required for completion of their degree program by more than 30 or 45 hours, resulting in increased tuition.

The three-peat rule and the six-drop rule are also included in the bill, both of which charge students extra if they repeat a course multiple times or drop more than six courses.

If students are paying in-state tuition rates and are penalized by these rules, institutions across Texas would charge them out-of-state tuition.

Some colleges, such as Texas A&M University, add a supplementary fee of $125 per semester credit hour for a repeated course in addition to any tuition and fees.

West said this bill would aid older students wishing to return to college and graduate.

It would help the state meet the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 60×30 plan, which aims for 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-old students to obtain a certificate or degree by 2030.

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