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College busts student for class service, then launches its own

U Could Finish page on Facebook

After a university punished a student for creating a paid service to expedite registration, the school is launching its own improved registration program. On Friday, the University of Central Florida said its new system would "allow students to secure classes faster, more efficiently and free of charge."

UCF made the announcement on its own website, acknowledging the work of Tim Arnold, the senior marketing major currently under university sanction and academic probation — although they didn't acknowledge him by name.

“As we implement our enhanced registration process — one that is free and compatible with our systems — we invite the developer of the outside website, and others, to help us make UCF more efficient," said Grant Heston, UCF associate vice-president for communications, on the site. "Any idea that has the potential to improve services for students is worthy of consideration.”

In an interview earlier this week with NBC News, Heston said that UCF had already been at work on a "similar program" to Arnold's when the controversy erupted in June.

Arnold developed a Facebook app, called U Could Finish, to help his fellow students find out via text message as soon as seats became available for classes they needed. The app notified students as often as every 60 seconds. The way it did it was to access UCF's schedule search page, which is what caused the problem.

University officials said the app got so popular, it dramatically slowed down the university’s myUCF servers. There were also concerns that Arnold planned to charge 99 cents for the app. Arnold told NBC News that he had "no intentions of making a profit" on his app, that it "was just to help pay the hosting ad other bills to keep the service online and possibly make back some of my development costs."

He said he did receive two payments from one user, "for a total of $7.87. I refunded both transactions right after I found out there was a block between UCF and my server."

But it wasn't only having his app's access cut that hurt Arnold. He was put on probation for three semesters, along with lesser penalties. He appealed the decision, and on Friday, he told NBC News via email, "They have sustained the decision and three sanctions, but have reduced my probation from three to two terms."

Arnold also has to give up his treasurer role for the Society for Marketing Professionals through next spring, "as student leadership requires fall and spring terms, it has the same effect of preventing me from continuing my leadership," he wrote.

"I'm definitely glad that they have made registration better and easier to use for students, and I'm honored that my actions helped create change," Arnold wrote. "However, I think that in light of UCF seeing my innovation's value and using it as an inspiration/motivation to create their own version, it should have changed their actions accordingly."

Asked about the fairness of the university's decision, Heston told NBC News Friday via email that he can't comment on "individual students. What I can say is that UCF encourages and applauds innovation and entrepreneurship. The issue about the outside website was not about its innovation, rather its execution. Inadequate coordination with the university caused system issues for the university."

Arnold isn't buying it. "I think they've enforced a double standard here," he said. "They taught me to think innovatively, and now they've punished me for doing so even after acknowledging it was a good idea."

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