'Ambition Penalty' Sparks Protests by Kent State Students
Trustees' decision to bring Kent State pricing structure in line with other Ohio universities upsetting to those with heavy course loads.
Kent native Lucy Merriman attends Kent State University for free, but she’s so upset about the new “ambition penalty” to be charged to fellow students taking more than 17 credit hours that she spent nearly 12 hours Monday protesting the move.
Merriman, a freshman Honors College student, staged the first of two protests set for this week outside the suite of university administrative offices located at the Kent State Library. Not long after arriving at 9 a.m. Merriman learned President Lester Lefton was not in his office Monday.
But that didn’t deter her and numerous other concerned students from talking with passers-by about the new fee structure and encouraging them to sign a petition started by student Michael Crowley, whose group will be staging a second protest this week, likely on Thursday afternoon at the library.
The online petition had garnered more than 3,200 signatures as of this morning. Merriman said her fellow protestors – inspired by her Facebook event page called Protest the Ambition Penalty – “probably nabbed 300 to 400 of those signatures” Monday.
According to a summary of the university’s Board of Trustees' March meeting, the board “addressed a fee inequity in which students taking heavy course loads in a semester are charged a flat fee equal to 11 credit hours. The board approved a phased-in, credit-hour charge for all Kent Campus students who take more than 16 credit hours per semester.”
Starting next fall, students will be charged the individual credit-hour fee of $440 for all enrolled hours above 17 credit hours. During the 2013-2014 academic year, students who enroll in more than 16 credit hours per semester will be charged the standard credit-hour rate for each additional hour.
Emily Vincent, director of media relations at Kent State, said the university has long been atypical with its pricing.
“We are one of only two Ohio public universities whose flat rate starts at 11 credits and one of three universities that have allowed credit hours up to infinity without any additional charge. Students have paid a flat rate for taking 11 credits or more without a limit,” Vincent said.
“This means that every full-time Kent State student enjoys the benefit of not paying for that 12th credit hour, as do their peers at all but one of the Ohio universities (Ohio University). Students will continue to see this added value in the new plateau structure,” she explained.
Merriman – who attends the university on a tuition waiver, as her father is a professor there – said she’s heard of numerous students who chose Kent State because of its price structure who will now have to transfer elsewhere.
“I was really inspired to take action beyond just signing the petition because if that goes into effect next semester, a friend of mine who’s a junior would have to drop one of his minors or transfer back to a school in Pennsylvania,” Merriman said. “He’s really stuck between a rock and hard place. I don’t want him to transfer or dismiss his dreams of two minors.”
She has been referring to the new fee structure as the “ambition penalty” because Honors College students often need or want to take more credit hours than typical students.
One person who sat in protest with Merriman was Julieanne Jimenez, a sophomore from North Plainfield, NJ. Jimenez said she’s currently taking 18 credit hours, but that will jump to 22 credit hours next fall when she begins concentrating on her major in American Sign Language interpreting and double minors in Spanish and dance.
“Originally I was going to go to LaGuardia Community College back home, but (Kent State) was cheaper. But with this happening, I may as well go back home and live with my grandma and go (to LaGuardia),” Jimenez said.
One passer-by in the library was Megan Revere, a sophomore majoring in integrated life sciences. She told Merriman she had already signed the petition because she thinks the fee change is “outrageous. In one of my classes, they calculated the (new) costs and were outraged that it would be cheaper to go to (Ohio State University).”