Fort Walton Beach, FL asked in Contracts and Education Law for Florida

Q: Can a college program change the passing percentage requirement from 75% to 78% while I am mid-program?

I am in a 2-year, 4 semester program at my state college. During admission and acceptance into the program, it was stated in the handbook that we needed a 75% "C" to pass each semester. During the beginning of my 3rd semester, the director of the program decided to change it to 78% "C" to be considered a pass and now anything lower would be a "D". We were not given a choice whether we wanted to abide by this new policy.

I'm wondering if my program had the legal rights to change the passing percentage mid-program. I read some things like University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Hughes, accreditation policies, and that the handbook provided at admission was a legal contract between the school and I but I'd like to know more. Specifically with educational law and student rights.

Does case judgements from other states apply to my state of Florida? Was my program allowed to do this and not give us a choice?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Terrence H Thorgaard
Terrence H Thorgaard
  • Freeeport, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: Without reading the Hughes case, I don't know if it is binding precedent in Florida; was it a federal or state case, and did it involve Mississippi statutes, or general legal principles?

Charles M.  Baron
Charles M. Baron
  • Hollywood, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: The first issue is whether the change caused you, or will cause you, to flunk. If you pass, I think your question is purely academic and not fodder for a legal action (that is, forcing you to study a bit harder won't cut it). If you flunk, however, you would have "legal standing" and definitely should have a lawyer examine the matter as to your contractual rights (and if the program is in a state institution or community college, your constitutional rights as well). The lawyer must review the institution's materials as well as case law relevant to Florida.

Regarding your question regarding the applicability of out-of-state cases such as University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Hughes (where the student lost in the State appellate court), the issue is whether an appellate decision is BINDING on the trial court that you are in. If a case is not binding, it need not be followed BUT your court would have the OPTION of following it if the court finds that decision to contain persuasive reasoning and that it's not in conflict with case law binding on Fla. (The Fla. Court likely would not be aware of any out-of-state decision to begin with unless cited by counsel for the opposing party as a persuasive case.)

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