eric_smith_web_fc_2.jpgMIAMI (AP) _ Florida's full-time public university students could soon be paying a flat tuition, no matter how many classes they take, under a plan being considered by the state board.

The system's Board of Governors is considering a plan that backers hope would push students to graduate on time or even early.

The Miami Herald reported Sunday that the pricing structure, known as block tuition, is commonly used at private universities nationwide, and has been adopted by some high-profile public universities, including The University of Texas at Austin and UCLA.

At Florida schools, full-time students need to average 15 credit hours per semester to graduate in four years, the equivalent of five classes. But some full-time students take 12 credit hours and others take 18. Under the plan, it would be up to each of the system's 11 universities whether to adopt the new plan or still charge per unit.

Backers say students who take longer than four years to graduate should pay more, while students who graduate early should get a break.

"We're giving it serious consideration,'' University of Florida Provost Joseph Glover said. "It accelerates students' progress toward graduation…it's definitely an encouragement for students to take additional hours toward their degree.''

But critics say it is a way of increasing tuition on the sly and say it would unfairly penalize students who can't take more than four classes at a time because of work or family obligations.

"There's a reason they're only taking 12 credits,'' said William-Jose Velez, the student government senate speaker at Florida International University.

The Board of Governors could adopt the plan as early as November and it could be implemented at some schools in Fall 2011.

Picture above: Florida Secretary of Education Eric Smith.