Degree Dilemma: Students believe master’s degree devalued after university halves tuition after graduation

(WSVN) - Imagine paying for an expensive college degree, then finding out after graduation that the university has dramatically cut the tuition cost, but you’re still stuck paying full price. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek has more on this degree dilemma.

Graduation day is special.

Betty Rodriguez: “You have such a euphoria. You’re so happy.”

And when you’ve earned a master’s degree, it’s a real celebration.

Wanda Diaz: “Oh, I was excited. I was so happy! I was even more proud because I had my children there with me.”

These classmates all got their master’s in human resource management at Florida International University.

Stephanie Fritz, FIU master’s graduate: “I was looking to kind of set myself apart. I wanted to gain the knowledge and kind of get a little more hands on with different types of HR. There’s so many different facets.”

The 2018-2019 degree program was fast-paced, challenging and expensive. Tuition cost more than $32,000, and there are extra charges for things like books.

Betty Rodriguez: “It’s $35,000 that I took out in student loans.”

Wanda Diaz, FIU master’s graduate: “Now, it’s about $36,000 that I owe.”

After graduation, the women kept in touch, then found out something that shocked them all.

Betty Rodriguez: “‘Hey, guess what? Tuition went down half price!'”

The university had slashed the price of their HR master’s degree program to just under $18,000.

Betty Rodriguez: “I’m like, ‘What? It’s only been six months since I graduated.'”

Wanda Diaz: “I was very surprised, hurt.”

The group emailed and called FIU asking what had changed. They say the university’s response didn’t make sense.

Stephanie Fritz: “We just recently got a blanket statement that was like, ‘Well, we don’t retroactively change your fees. However, at that time, that’s what the program was worth, and now, it’s worth the cost that it is,’ but in reality, it’s the same program online. It looks to be almost the same exact courses, the same schedule.”

7News reached out to FIU. University officials wouldn’t speak to us on camera but sent us a statement saying, “We have changed the HR program to become a regular master’s degree program … without any of the extra services associated with education geared to working professionals.”

They said the program will no longer offer extra services like “networking business events, professional seminars, memberships and travel to career conferences.”

Stephanie Fritz: “A lot of us didn’t experience these services that they claim they gave us, and it just seems like it’s an excuse to account for the money that we paid.”

They feel their master’s degrees have now been devalued.

Betty Rodriguez, FIU master’s graduate: “Now at half the price, you’re going to have thousands of students out there that already got a master’s degree, so what’s going to happen with the jobs? You’re going to have a surplus of students with a master’s degree.”

Wanda is still looking for a job and answers from the university.

Wanda Diaz: “I would like for them to sit with us and explain to us what happened, what changed, and also talk to the loan companies and try to help us with these loans.”

FIU says they are willing to sit down and talk with the graduates, but it cannot reduce loans or return money.

These women will now spend years paying off a degree they now think is way overpriced.

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