University of North Florida
Board of Trustees

  • Conference Call
August 25, 2004
at 8:30 a.m.

Trustees in Attendance

Wilfredo Gonzalez, Steve Halverson, Ann Hicks, Wanyonyi Kendrick, Judith Solano, Bruce Taylor, Carol Thompson. Luther Coggin, O’Neal Douglas, and Kevin Twomey participated by telephone. 

Trustees Absent

Edythe Abdullah, Toni Crawford, Jerry Watterson.

Call to Order and Approval of Minutes

Chair Thompson verified that trustees had received the minutes and asked for a motion to approve them. Trustee Douglas so motioned; the motion was seconded and approved unanimously.

Proposal for Block Tuition to the Board of Governors

Chair Thompson summarized the reasons for calling the meeting, stating that, though there was some discussion in the last conference call, it had been determined that more discussion was required regarding block tuition. She reminded the group of the request from the Board of Governors for input on whether they would be interested in block tuition as a way of speeding up the time it took for students to get a bachelor’s degree, which would ultimately result in more bachelor degrees from each university. The university boards were also asked to submit ideas for instituting block tuition in their institutions.


Chair Thompson said she was concerned about discerning how best to maximize the University’s resources. Though block tuition could be one possibility, in examining the institution’s funding mechanisms, it could have financial ramifications. She said the Board had been very responsible in determining its role in policy of setting strategic goals for the University, as well as administration’s role. She noted that, as the Board of Governors had requested input, such input might be the need for more information for both the Board of Governors and the university boards before moving to put any block tuition model in place. She recommended that trustees take the opportunity presented by today’s meeting to ask questions, offer input, and be innovative in their thinking about what was best for UNF. She asked President Delaney to discuss the request further.


President Delaney said he had three quick comments prior to beginning discussion on the block tuition item. He offered his congratulations to Trustee Taylor for winning an award for outstanding service to the engineering profession. Mr. Delaney said he planned to meet with the BOT committees in September to discuss Division I. He told trustees that University administration was still in talks with the faculty union. He said there had been some breakthrough but an agreement had not yet been reached.


Regarding the item on block tuition, President Delaney agreed that the details were quite complicated, stating that staff came up with another permutation each time the issue was addressed. He said several other models had been proposed by some of the other universities, falling into roughly three categories. The model UNF administration had proposed he referred to as a pure response, which was based on the goal of block tuition to speed up graduation by encouraging students to take an extra class. The University proposal encouraged students to take an extra class by essentially offering them a free class or so after a certain amount of credits. One proposal by UCF had the potential of adding revenue to the institution’s coffers by penalizing the students for not taking an additional class. Students who took 12, 13, or 14 credits would pay for 15 credits. President Delaney said it appeared that UF and FSU would adopt proposals similar to that of UCF. The University of South Florida, he said, was a more static model, which was somewhat revenue negative. He noted that there were a number of ways in which the goal could be accomplished.


Trustee Douglas asked if the possible shortfalls to UNF or any of the other universities had been addressed in any way during conversations with the Board of Governors. Ms. Owen replied that in a recent presidents’ conference call it had been mentioned that revenue loss and FTE gain would need to be fully funded. However, she said the details of how such funding would occur had not been discussed. Some universities, such as UF, were willing to accept the added cost, but others felt that any move to adopt block tuition should be contingent upon funding. Trustee Douglas noted that it did seem that other universities had some of the same questions as UNF.


President Delaney said he felt the first issue to address was whether or not the University actually wished to encourage students to take an extra class for a tuition break. Upon deciding that issue, if trustees were interested in the concept of block tuition, the current proposals from UNF could be examined, as well as any other options, including those proposed by other universities. He added that some of the options proposed by other universities were interesting and worthy of consideration, stating that trustees were in no way bound to the proposal offered by UNF’s administration. He also noted the cost to UNF, stating that there would be a loss in the subsidy for the class in addition to the cost of the extra classes required the meet the needs of the added students. Dean Serwatka estimated the cost at approximately $9 million.


Trustee Douglas wondered if block tuition would be advantageous to UNF as there were so many non-traditional students. He asked if block tuition would help UNF to accomplish the overall objective of providing more graduates. Chair Thompson verified with Dean Serwatka that under UNF's proposal students would not be penalized if they did not wish to graduate more quickly.


Trustee Taylor said he thought trustees should consider the larger issues, such as the priorities at UNF. He said some of the University’s top priorities were excellence and the quality of the education offered. He said that one of his biggest frustrations was the mandate on the maximum number of credit hours for some degrees. He felt it limited the quality of education that students received. He felt that block tuition could have some advantages if it did indeed expedite student graduation, however, he would rather see students get a better education for their money.


Trustee Hicks pointed out that there was a vast difference in the maturity level of students from incoming freshman to those who graduate four years later. She asked if the UNF proposal took administrative costs into account. Dean Serwatka said no estimate on those costs had been made. President Delaney said that, though there would be some increase administratively, he did not feel it would be exorbitant.


Chair Thompson asked Trustee Solano if she would address the issue from the faculty perspective. Dr. Solano said that part of faculty’s response was consistent with Trustee Taylor’s observations. Faculty were concerned about the quality of education under a block tuition policy. An important thing to consider, she said, was whether there was a problem with the graduation rates at UNF. She said the average time taken for graduation among FTICs was 4.4 years, perhaps one semester over four years. She said she did not believe that faculty were in favor of block tuition at this time given the nature of much of UNF’s student body. A fair percentage of these students were non-traditional students who worked full-time and had family obligations in addition to their courseloads. While they might attempt to take advantage of the tuition savings, the decision could ultimately cost them by causing them to overextend themselves. She noted that even traditional students often had jobs of some type and faculty would much prefer students took courseloads they could handle and did well rather than trying to rush through. Dr. Solano said faculty were also concerned with the cost to the institution. She said that even if the proposal were to be enacted as contingent upon receipt of the revenue loss and additional funding necessary, she was not sure if the University would actually see the funds as similar situations had occurred in the past and the history of those occasions had been that universities were instructed or encouraged to make costly changes with the idea that the funding would follow when, in fact, it often had not.


President Delaney said that he also doubted that the Legislature would fund the additional FTE. He directed trustees to Attachment 3B, indicating that some of the positive and negative consequences were discussed in that section.


Chair Thompson asked trustees if they felt that a proposal was needed from UNF, stating that she didn’t wish to attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken. She added that quality was of great concern to the trustees as it was to the faculty.


Vice Chair Halverson thanked staff for all of the information that had been presented, stating that he would be heavily influenced by what administration and faculty had to say. He said his first priority was the highest quality education for UNF’s students, observing that the issue for him was not how much UNF would receive in funding for instituting a block tuition plan. Overall, he felt that more and larger classes would make it more difficult to improve the quality of the institution, outweighing any pros of block tuition, regardless of the option adopted. Further, he said his understanding was that UNF was near the top in utilization of resources. He saw the issue at this time for UNF as the quality of education rather than the use of resources.


President Delaney pointed out that the goal was really to accelerate the number of baccalaureate degrees through UNF. Trustee Halverson noted that he had seen degree production listed as a principle of success, but he did not feel it was as prominent a success metric as the report suggested. For UNF, he felt the most important thing was the quality of the degree and he felt block tuition would result in the derogation of that quality.


Trustee Gonzalez said he agreed with all of Trustee Halverson’s comments. He said he hoped the Board of Governors was not looking for a unanimous perspective for the universities and planned to consider each university individually, not only in terms of population, as the large majority of UNF’s students did not live on campus, but also according to the goals of each board, as this institution’s trustees, faculty, and staff were primarily concerned with the quality of education at this point in the institution’s history.


Trustee Douglas thanked staff for an excellent job on preparing the information. He said he did not view the option in terms of either/or. While he certainly would not like to penalize students in any way, nor would he wish to put pressure on them to perform at levels they were not able to handle, he wouldn’t want to deny students the opportunity to exercise the option to take the extra classes if there were no downside for the University. In any case, he did not wish to take an opposing position to the Board of Governors, but rather an analytical one.


President Delaney observed that the object of block tuition was not to reward students who were already taking extra classes, but to encourage students to take extra classes they would not usually take, which would, in turn, result in students needing more study time, etc. Additionally, the option could prove costly to the University. Thus the block tuition policy might not prove a fiscally sound policy for UNF. He noted that Trustee Watterson, as a representative for the students, would almost certainly disagree, as he would say that the students who were taking extra classes would have appreciated the break in tuition.


Trustee Gonzalez asked if students would be required to take a class within their major to receive the break. President Delaney replied that they would not, which could also result in the accumulation of excess hours. He said it was possible that such a requirement could be arranged, however. Trustee Taylor added that he agreed with Trustee Douglas that he would not like to stand in opposition of the Board of Governors as he did not want to have something mandated that might not be in the best interests of UNF. Trustee Coggin agreed as well. Vice Chair Halverson offered that he believed the outcome resulting from this discussion was to let the BOG know that the block tuition option needed further investigation.


Chair Thompson said the request from the Board of Governors asked whether each board of trustees would institute block tuition if given an opportunity, and by what means such a policy could be instituted for each institution. She acknowledged the Board’s fiduciary responsibility, but reiterated the concern about the quality of education. She wondered if the response from the trustees might be stated to indicate that trustees and University administration did not see student graduation rates and use of resources as a cause for concern at UNF, thus did not feel a block tuition plan would be beneficial at this time. However, in looking at possible block tuition options, UNF’s administration had developed a model that may be useful to the BOG in future conversations about the issue. She recommended a cover letter for the background material already gathered that stated the Board’s concerns, indicated the lengths the Board and UNF administration had gone to in order to investigate the matter, and presented their findings. In this way, she felt the Board could address the subject for not only UNF but also statewide. President Delaney said that once the letter had been drafted, he would circulate it to trustees for their approval.


Upon Chair Thomspon’s request for a motion to approve the course of action, the motion was offered, seconded, and approved unanimously. Trustee Douglas thanked Chair Thompson for leading a great discussion. President Delaney expressed his appreciation for the work done by Dr. Perkins, Ms. Owen, and Dean Serwatka to prepare the meeting materials. Chair Thompson noted that this was the first face-to-face meeting with Provost Giordano and welcomed him to UNF. Dr. Giordano said he felt honored to have spent the morning with such a distinguished group and felt it a privilege to be at the University of North Florida. Chair Thompson thanked everyone for their thoughtful deliberation on the subject of block tuition and adjourned the meeting.