Excessive hours penalties to impact students

By Samuel Gomez
Pulse Staff Reporter

A student works with tutors in the Writing Assistance Center. Photo by Samuel Gomez.

In an effort to keep students on track, Alamo Colleges will increase tuition for students who are taking longer than expected to complete their coursework.

The long-standing three-peat tuition policy and the newly-implemented 18-hour rule for developmental courses will add hundreds of dollars to a student’s tuition if they end up taking an excessive number of hours.

“We want to make sure a student stays on track to graduating or transferring,” said Shirley Leija, associate director of Student Financial Services.

The three-peat policy charges students taking a course for the third time an increased rate of $384 per semester hour, which is more than three times the cost of normal in-district tuition.

“Although that’s in place, every student has the right to petition that three-peat cost,” said Michael Ximenez, director of Advising at Palo Alto College. “It may not be approved, but every student has the right to petition, and, due to extenuating circumstances, that petition may be approved.”

According to Ximenez, students who repeat a course are costing the state and the local community extra funding. When a course is repeated more than three times, the state no longer provides funds for the course, and the cost is charged directly to the student.

Formerly known as the 27-hour rule, the new 18-hour rule charges students a higher tuition rate if they take more than 18 hours of developmental courses. In-district students will pay an extra $118 per semester hour and out-of-district students will pay $176 more per hour. Three developmental courses are offered for math and two for reading and writing. The policy went into effect in Spring 2018.

In addition to higher tuition costs, students who accumulate excessive hours may also have their financial aid suspended.

“If they fall below the 67 percent completion rate, or the overall GPA of a 2.0, then they go into financial aid suspension,” said Leija. “But they are given a chance to appeal. There is an appeal process.”

Satisfactory academic progress determines whether or not a student is eligible for federal or state financial aid.

“You have to remember that those people are in the developmental courses for a reason,” said Victoria Cortes, a Psychology sophomore at Palo Alto College. “They can’t learn on the spot as fast as everybody else.”

According to Leija, changing majors and taking remedial courses are the main reasons students reach excessive hours or fall below the required completion rate. Things going on at home can also inhibit their success. Every situation is unique, according to Ximenez.

Personal counseling is available on campus for any student who may be experiencing personal struggles affecting their academic progress. The Student Health, Advocacy, Resource and Engagement (S.H.A.R.E) Center also provides resources for students, such as food, financial literacy and budget management, as well as clothing for interviews through a partnership with Goodwill San Antonio.

Advisors may be the best resource available to students to make sure they stay focused.

“One of the first and foremost things we tell every student is to meet with their certified advisor at least once a semester,” said Ximenez. “When they meet with their certified advisor at least once a semester, they’re going to talk about their degrees and course sequence. They’re going to be able to identify patterns and trends.”