Fees mounting at universities

first_imgWhen Emily McLain decided to enroll at the University of Oregon, a significant part of the appeal was low tuition. She had not counted on all the fees that unexpectedly appeared on her bill. “I had my dad calling me asking, `What’s this for?”‘ said McLain, 22, a political science and international studies major now entering her last year at the university. This year, for instance, the university is charging a $51 “energy surcharge” for rising electricity costs. A $270 “technology fee” for computer service. There is the $371.25 fee for the campus health center, a $135 fee to maintain buildings and grounds, and a $624 “incidental fee,” for student activities. And more. All told, fees add up to $1,542, or nearly an additional 40 percent on top of tuition of $3,984. That does not even count additional fees charged for taking certain courses. And in California last year, a state judge ordered the University of California system to pay back millions of dollars to the students who sued the university system in 2003 charging that increases in fees violated university assurances that fees would stay fixed for current students. The University of California has appealed the decision. Private colleges have fees, too, but educators say that usually they are dwarfed by tuition, which can be set without seeking approval from lawmakers or any other outsiders. Public colleges cost far less but the imbalance between fees and tuition can be hefty.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! College administrators say public universities are increasingly tacking on fees for the same reasons that some are experimenting with differential tuition for different majors: state support for higher education has languished, and legislatures shy away from approving tuition increases. Fees, by contrast, can often be set by individual campuses. At just over half the nation’s four-year public colleges, fees rose faster than tuition in the 2005-6 school year and the previous year, according to the College Board, which tracks trends in college costs. Overall, in 2005-6 fees – the most current year for which there is available data – rose by an average of 8 percent to 11 percent at public four-year institutions, well above the rate of inflation. These days, there may be a fee for every imaginable service. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga this fall is collecting a new $25 health fee. Montana State University Billings for the first time is charging a $10 library fee. The University of North Dakota has imposed a $37 per semester fee to pay for pulling its whole athletic program into Division I. And students at Arizona State University face a new $25 technology fee. Some students are rebelling, calling fees an underhanded tuition increase that obscures the real cost of college. In Arizona, students recently called on the regents to change the fee-setting process. “A lot of students felt like fees were being used for services that used to be covered by tuition,” said Serena Unrein, executive director of the Arizona Students’ Association. In Oregon, students went to the Legislature last spring to demand relief. “Students want more transparency,” said McLain, who is student body president. last_img

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