HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough Community Collage students opting for virtual learning this fall will have to pay a little extra.
The school has added an online learning fee of $14 per credit hour.
The fee came as a surprise for St. Augustine resident Nicholas Aliferakis, who is getting ready to begin his fifth semester at Hillsborough Community College. Aliferakis said he paid his fall tuition in full in July and noticed the additional fee when logging onto his student portal to purchase books and materials last week.
“There was no notice at all, or explanation why,” she said.
Searching for answers, Aliferakis called Hillsborough Community College’s billing department. During that conversation, he says the representative attributed the additional charge to COVID-19.
“The person that I spoke to over the phone they told me in the beginning that the reason why was because of the pandemic. Due to COVID-19,” he said. “Hillsborough Community College is just making extra money and they have the pandemic as an excuse.”
Aliferakis said he’s always been a virtual student and doesn’t feel the additional fee is fair for students who have been online all along.
“I’m fortunate right now that I have kept my job all this time and I could pay the extra fee, but not all of my classmates are that lucky,” he explained.
Spectrum Bay News 9 reached out to Hillsborough Community College. A spokesperson stated that the additional fee was not due to the pandemic, but had been in the works for awhile and was adopted by their Board of Trustees in April.
Full statement from Hillsborough Community College:
“Ensuring that we provide access to affordable, exceptional higher education is a fundamental part of who we are at Hillsborough Community College, as is operating with full transparency.
The College has not imposed a tuition increase in the last eight years and prides itself on having the lowest tuition in the region.
Our District Board of Trustees adopted HCC’s Distance Learning fee at the April 2020 meeting, which had been originally scheduled for March.
The fee was requested to support the tremendous growth of 57% in unduplicated headcount and a 78% increase in the number of course offerings during the 2015-2016 to 2019-2020 academic years and to provide the requisite services including online proctoring, online student services, online library services and online tutoring needed to ensure a high-quality learning experience for our online students.
Any potential fee adoption is required to be communicated to students through email, advertised publicly, and distributed to the media via a press release to ensure that the public has the opportunity to provide comment on the potential fee adoption.”
Aliferakis stated he never received an email regarding the additional fee.
Classes begin for fall semester students begin on August 17.