As many of you recall, last year I mentioned the university's practice of only allowing freshmen students to take 13 credits. I said something along the lines of "great big fat ripoff". It's a new year and once again student's are facing the sobering reality that the university has unfairly taken thousands of dollars out of their pockets. This is what you will see in the catalog:
|Source: HUST Catalog 2011-12|
The school is publishing that students can take 12 to 17 credits for $11,250 a semester, but that is patently false. The Provost has instituted a policy restricting freshman to a maximum of 13 credits in their first semester without officially listing the policy. Not only is this practice unethical, it actually illegal.
PA Code § 31.32. Catalog and announcements. "(a) An institution’s current catalog and official publications, as appropriate, must describe accurately the institution’s policies...(b) The catalog shall make explicit tuition costs and fees for which students will be charged..." You will not find any mention of any policy that limits freshman to 13 credits in their first semester in the official HUST catalog or student handbook.
Students that take 17 credits per semester are charged $662 per credit ( $11,250/17=$662 ). At 13 credits, students are paying $865 per credit ($11,250/13=$865). Freshman in their first semester pay $200 a credit more than other undergraduates. Let me put it to you another way: Students are paying $5200 for one general education class such as The Creative Mind (that fact alone should make every student feel deeply violated). As I see it, the university owes each 2011-12 freshman four credits or $2648.00 ($662*4). I feel ripped off and I'm not even a freshman.
It gets worse though. As freshmen are limited to 13 credits in their first semester, they are still freshman even after completing their first year. That's right, if freshman students followed their prescribed program schedules, they will not have the 30 credits they need to be considered sophomores. Students are classified by the number of semester hours completed:
Freshman: fewer than 30 semester hours earned.
Sophomore: greater than or equal to 30 semester hours earned but less than 60.
Junior: greater than or equal to 60 semester hours earned but less than 90.
Senior: greater than or equal to 90 semester hours earned.
In some cases, students will always be classified a year behind. Consider:
|Geo-spatial program HUST Catalog 2010-11|
Ah, I'm glad you asked. Financial aid is based on a student's classification. For example:
|HUST catalog, 2010-11|
The 13 credit policy was developed by and instituted by the Provost as a means to curb Harrisburg University's horrific retention rate. If he was even slightly qualified for his job, he would have known it was a bad idea. Heck, I'm just a blogger and I knew it was just plain stupid. Instead of taking a logical approach to addressing retention such as higher admission standards, a general education program that isn't complete garbage and controlling tuition, the Provost's idea to get students to come back for their sophomore year is to make their first year really easy. Seriously, this guy is a fucking idiot.
The result of the Provost's big plan?
1) The university essentially steals a few thousand $ from students.
2) The university is in violation of Pennsylvania law.
3) Students lose out on thousands of $ in financial aid.
What can students do? First you should ask the Provost to compensate you for your lost aid and your lost credits. You should do this in writing. If you don't get satisfaction, you still have a few other avenues open to you.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will accept all written and signed complaints against colleges, universities and seminaries certified to operate in Pennsylvania that may adversely affect students or consumers. You can find them at 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126, (717)-783-6788. You can find the complaint form here (PDF).
Another option would be to file a formal complaint with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Middle States is the accrediting body at HUST. Accreditation is extremely important to Harrisburg University and as such, all complaints will be taken very seriously. You can find the complaint form here (MS Word document).
If you paid your tuition with student loans from the U.S. Department of Education, you can contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman. You can find an on-line complaint form here.
You can file a complaint with Pennsylvania Attorney General. The AG deals with consumer issues of fraud and deception. Bureau of Consumer Protection, 14th Floor, Strawberry Square,Harrisburg, PA 17120, (717) 787-9707. You can find a complaint form here.