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It cost Amy Pearl, a single mother of two college students, about $600 for her and her freshman daughter to attend UF’s orientation this Summer.

Half the money paid for sessions and her daughter’s overnight stay. The other half paid for a hotel room, food and gas. It wasn’t easy, she said — she sometimes works seven days a week to pay for expenses this high. 

“To come up with that much money, along with the expenses just to start college was a lot, but I wanted to be there for her,” Pearl said. “I’m not saying [Preview] shouldn’t happen, but it was too much for me.” 

Preview, UF’s freshman and transfer orientation, is a mandatory introduction to the university for all students. Florida’s 2019 state statutes say orientation fees for public universities shouldn’t exceed $35, but UF has charged more for at least a decade, according to records reported by the Gainesville Sun. 

Archived orientation pages show UF’s overall orientation prices were $90 in 2007 and between $125-200 from 2014-2018, according to the Sun’s reporting. FSU, UCF and FAMU separate the $35 orientation fee from other expenses, but UF didn’t do so until after Spring 2019. It is unclear if families will be refunded in the future. 

UF opened an investigation in March 2019 to discover if it mischarged students, said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando. He sent The Alligator the same statement as the Sun and declined to comment further. 

“It came to our attention that we needed to increase the clarity and ease of our Preview registration program,” Orlando wrote in an email. “We immediately took action to revise the Preview registration process, increasing the simplicity of selecting various Preview options.”

The Summer 2019 sessions included a new $35 option featuring an advising session and informational packet. Alternatively, students could pay $150 to receive additional advising, an overnight stay in a dorm, meals and UF merchandise, according to UF’s orientation site. Parents had to find their own lodging, in addition to the $125 cost for their attendance.

Christian Lopez, an 18-year-old UF international studies freshman, said he didn’t know they offered a less expensive option. His family paid more than $200 for him and his mother to attend Preview, excluding hotel and additional expenses. 

“My mom was upset,” Lopez said. “She was confused about why she had to pay that much  — $200 just to walk around.” 

UF’s orientation website isn’t clear about the option. The FAQ lists three Preview programs for first-year students — one for students who start in Summer B, Fall and in Innovation Academy; one for students in the Pathways to Campus Enrollment program; and one for students who start in Summer A /C.

The site says that the last two programs span one day, but the first is specified as a two-day program without mentioning options, despite the recent changes. 

The $35 option is only mentioned on the “First Year Student Breakdown” webpage, which says it links directly from the orientation homepage, but it doesn’t. 

The website that formerly linked to Preview costs now shows a ‘Page Not Found’ error. 

“I didn’t see it anywhere,” Lopez said. “Did I have a good Preview experience? Yes. Could it have been cheaper? Yes.”