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2004 Opinions

August 17, 2004
Nathan A. Adams, IV
Deputy General Counsel
(850) 245-0442
205-0442
04-06
Date:
Prepared By:

Phone:
Suncom:
Opinion No.:

Memorandum Opinion

To:


From:

Subject:
Lt. Col. Elizabeth Masters
Judge Advocate General
Florida Army National Guard
Daniel J. Woodring, Esquire
General Counsel
Student Withdrawl Due to Military Service

Question Presented: Are public post-secondary institutions required to allow currently enrolled students withdrawing due to military service to choose between receiving a full refund of course fees or completing the course at a later date?

Answer: Public post-secondary institutions must permit currently enrolled students withdrawing due to military service to choose between receiving a full refund of course fees or completing the course at a later date without academic or financial penalty.

Analysis: Section 1004.07, Florida Statutes, provides that a student withdrawing from courses offered by a technical center, public community college, public college, or public university because the student is called to or enlists in active military service “shall be permitted the option of either completing the course or courses at a later date without penalty or withdrawing from the course or courses with a full refund of fees paid.” The statute is unambiguous on its face that the student has the discretion to choose between these options of receiving the refund or continuing the course without penalty at a later date. Public post-secondary educational institutions may not make this decision for the student.

It is not a permissible construction of Section 1004.07, Florida Statutes, to allow that the first statutory option for the student withdrawing due to military service is merely to take a course over again at a later date without academic penalty or additional fees. This construction does not give adequate meaning to the phrase “completing the course or courses at a later date” as distinguished from “withdrawing from the course … with a full refund,” both subject to the requirement that the action be without financial or academic penalty. Withdrawal due to military service must always be noted on a student’s record. § 1004.07, Fla. Stat. Under the impermissible construction of this statute, students would be left with merely a decision whether to seek a refund of course fees at the time of withdrawal or apply the course fee against reenrollment after military service.

Public post-secondary educational institutions may develop reasonable rules and guidelines concerning how students withdrawing due to military service may exercise their option of either completing coursework at a later date or receiving a full refund, as long as the rules do not impose any academic or financial penalty upon students for choosing either option or for performing military service. Public post-secondary educational institutions may not distinguish treatment of students withdrawing due to military service based on the courses in which they enroll, although they may counsel a student concerning the option the institution believes is in the student’s best interest. Ultimately, Section 1004.07, Florida Statutes, entitles the student withdrawing due to military service to make the decision about what is best for him or her without being subject to penalty or reprisal.

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