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Would California college students work harder to pass a class the first time they take it if they had to pay an extra fee to repeat it? Would "super seniors" hurry up and graduate if they had to pay a penalty for sticking around?

California State University officials are betting that establishing three new fees will encourage students to meet their goals faster -- thereby freeing up space for 16,000 new students to get into classes on the crowded campuses. They are considering a three-prong plan that would charge extra fees to students who remain enrolled though they have enough credits to graduate, take extra-heavy course loads or repeat a class because they got a D or F the first time they took it.

"What's motivating this is to increase access so we have more students taking classes, and taking them in a more efficient way," Eric Forbes, CSU's assistant vice chancellor for student academic services, said in a phone call with reporters today.

CSU trustees are voting on the plan on Tuesday. It proposes these fees:

  1. A "graduation Incentive" fee: Starting in fall 2013, students who have 160 or more units would pay an additional $372 per unit. Starting in fall 2014, students who have 150 or more units would pay the fee. Officials estimate this would encourage more students to graduate faster, opening up space for roughly 12,000 new students.
  2. A "course repeat" fee: Students who repeat a course would pay an extra $91 per unit. CSU officials say they could admit 4,000 new students if they cut in half the number of students repeating a class.
  3. A "third-tier tuition" fee: Students taking 18 or more units would be charged an extra $182 per unit. CSU believes this disincentive for heavy course loads would open up seats for students trying to get necessary classes.

Executive Vice Chancellor Ephraim Smith said most students will not pay the fees. The point of them is to change student behavior, he said.

"Even with the passage of Proposition 30, which helps, it is critical that we look for new ways to be efficient," Smith said.

Public universities in other states have been implementing similar changes, Smith said, such as penalizing students for repeating a class and trying to get "super seniors" to graduate.

Robert Turnage, assistant vice chancellor for budget, said the plan has the potential to save students money. If they make their way through school faster in order to avoid paying the new fees, he said, students will save themselves $4,000 per semester.

"This is going to open up opportunities for students to finish their degree in one or two semesters less," Turnage said. "It's not just 'stick,' there is 'carrot' as well."


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