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Super Seniors: Get Ready to Pay

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The term may imply otherwise, so don’t let it confuse you. Super seniors aren’t cape-wearing members of the over-60 crowd who possess the power to fight off bad guys. They’re college students who linger on campus and continue to take classes despite having more than enough credits to earn a degree.

We’ve all heard stories about college students who never graduate, but in most cases those students took classes but subsequently dropped out for one reason or another before earning their degrees. Most of us have also met people who seem to have been in college forever, earning their bachelor’s degree before moving on to their master’s and PhD.

What are Super Seniors?

Other college students—often dubbed “super seniors” or “veteran undergrads”—do have enough credits to earn a bachelor’s degree. But they still haven’t graduated, even though they’ve been on campus for four, five, or more years.

Perhaps they simply love taking electives? Maybe they want to extend “the best years of their lives” and postpone graduation to delay student loan repayment? Whatever the case may be, California State University (CSU) plans on cracking down on super seniors by implementing a graduation incentive fee that will help prod students toward graduation. The Associated Press reports that CSU Board of Trustees will be voting on this fee today.

With 23 campuses, CSU is the nation’s largest four-year college system. Budget cuts have causes the university to drastically increase tuition, eliminate many programs to save money, and turn away thousands of qualified potential students.

Graduation Incentive Fee

Charging super seniors more than students who are following a more traditional path—i.e., graduating on time—should help speed up their walk across the stage donning a cap and gown. Students are agitated as expected, but similar incentive fees are already in place in other states. According to the AP, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Wisconsin have started imposing similar fees in an effort to help students graduate quicker.

It takes an average of 120 credits to earn most bachelor’s degrees. A super senior fee, which would be phased in over the next two years, would be charged to students who have over 160 credits in Fall 2013. In Fall 2014, students with over 150 credits would be hit with the fee.

Just how much are we talking? A pretty penny. The proposed fee is $372 per semester credit on top of in-state tuition of nearly $3,000 per semester. In-state students classified as super seniors would essentially pay the same tuition as students paying out-of-state tuition.

The Huffington Post reports that two other fees are up for review at the Board of Trustees meeting:

  • “Course Repeat” fee of $91 for students who repeat a class
  • “Third-Tier Tuition” fee of $182 per credit for any course load of 18 credits or more per semester (the average student takes 12 credits per semester)

yet it seems the Super Senior fee has been causing the most outrage among students. “These changes are meant to provide more access for incoming freshmen and transfer students by helping current students to graduate in a more timely manner,” are the words of CSU executive vice chancellor Ephraim P. Smith.

Reasons Students are Still in School

Not all super seniors are destined to stay in college forever. In reality, that generalization is probably a false one anyway; most students do want to get out there with a degree.

Many changed their majors midway through college; others are working on a double major rather than earning one degree before going back to school to earn a second. (Less financial aid is available to students who are attempting to pursue a second bachelor’s degree than students who do not yet have one.) Other students transferred in from a different college that had different requirements.

“I want to be done with college just as badly as college wants me to be done with it,” one 22-year-old from Sacramento State University told the media. Even so, the fifth year senior, who is pursuing two majors and a minor, expects to have over 180 credits when she graduates next year.

Read More:

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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