Hidden Departmental Fees of College

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When people think about the rising cost of college education, they assume tuition costs are the main culprit. What they may not know is the extensive and often hidden department program fees are usually responsible.

College students pay thousands of dollars in tuition each year, which often forces them to take out loans. However, many students often overlook the amount in student fees they are being charged. This amount can sometimes come close to the amount paid in tuition.

There are student fees for just about everything; from registration, to housing, to athletics to SGA, to the yearbook and even graduation fees.

The amount students pay towards fees each year depends on their major. To some, this could be eye-opening, especially for incoming or unaware students. That’s not to say that this is where the fees stop. There is also a per credit hour fee attached when you enroll in courses.

These fees range anywhere from $29.15 to $60.85 per credit hour for almost every course offered at Missouri Western. This consists of the following fees:

  • Applied Arts in Digital Media – $60.85 per credit hour
  • Craig School of Business – $48.45 per credit hour
  • Education & Human Performance – $40.55 per credit hour
  • Engineering Technology – $46.00 per credit hour
  • Fine Arts – $44.60 per credit hour
  • Honors – $29.15 per credit hour
  • Humanities – $31.15 per credit hour
  • Nursing & Allied Health – $47.55 per credit hour
  • Public Service – $30.00 per credit hour
  • Science & Mathematics – $33.45 per credit hour
  • Social Sciences – $30.60 per credit hour
  • Theatre & Cinema – $60.85 per credit hour

What this means, is that on top of paying $206.37 in tuition per credit hour, you will also add on the course fee. For example, if you were to enroll in a typical 3-credit hour class, you would pay $619.11 in tuition alone. Along with around $125.79 in student fees (the average fee is $41.93)

When you add up all the costs for the total average of a 3-credit course, students are paying around $744.90 per class.

Program fees are determined by the departments’ reported needs and that is why there are different charges based on the classes and materials or technology needed for that class.

Since 2016, the average amount for student fees has raised by 1.46 percent. Provost Doug Davenport clarified why the fees increased.

“Program fees have a rationale on why they were set originally,” Davenport said. “the increases are typically based on the cost of providing service.”

Davenport also said that the money collected from program fees don’t necessarily go to the departments associated with the fee and could instead go into the general operating budget.

“That supports the institution they are not dedicated to any purpose so, therefore, any expenses that are not in the auxiliary,” Davenport said. “They are used for our basic operating expenses. So course fees or lab fees are ones that are used to pay for specific expenses related to the courses.”

To continue, Davenport expressed where the course fees and lab fees could go toward depending on the department. He lists some examples.

“Those (course fees or lab fees) remain in the department for the department,” Davenport said. “So for instance, lab fees in chemistry and biology etc, those are used to provide supplies and equipment. So when an instrument breaks down the fees are intended to help repair the equipment. “

Many students are frustrated that they don’t have a say in how these fees are determined or know where exactly they are going. Cinema and honors student Mary Couture shared her perspective on student’s involvement towards department fees.

“Personally, I think students should be able to have a say in where the money goes, for sure, because no one knows better what the students want than the students,” Couture said.

To add to Couture’s statement another student has an idea to involve students in the process. Accounting major, Brenden Martin believes this would end student’s frustrations and give students a voice in the decision-making process.

“I believe students should receive an itemized list of expenses,” Martin said. “So that they are more likely to make informed decisions when enrolling into classes.”

Other students like, marketing major, Shelby Wisner thinks that raising student fees is a necessity.

“I do think raising student fees is fair because the University does need to get that money from somewhere,” Wisner said. “However, I think the budget should be seriously looked at before raising fees and there should be a limit to how much they can be raised. I think the fees can benefit the University by paying for some of the expenses of running a university, such as salaries, building expenses, classroom resources, and other expenses.”

While some believe that there are more straight forward avenues for students to vocalize whether they are happy with where their money is being placed. Like, general studies major, Brendan Carney.

“You can always email the head of the school or that chair of the department and say hey this is really hurting us,” Carney said. “There are avenues where you can vocalize why you’re upset about something. If you get enough support behind you, you’re going to get listened to.”

Throughout the nation, many other universities have resulted in charging programs fees to balance out missing their funding.

“I’m only aware of one university that doesn’t charge those fees that way, but the rest of us all do,” Davenport said. “The reason is, we’re all under the same budget crunch where we can’t raise tuition to match our expenses and so these were a way to essentially offset our inability to do that with tuition and what it meant was we could determine where we need money and go okay that program costs more.”

The inability to raise tuition was caused by Senate Bill 389, which was signed by the Missouri Legislature in 2007. The bill only allows tuition increases if the university’s tuition is below the state average and only allows a raise that matches the consumer price index increase for the year. Which resulted in many universities creating program fees so they were able to provide the technology and supplies needed for the students’ education and success in classes.

Although students have reacted in frustration from the cost of fees, Davenport thinks that having push back creates an opportunity to educate students on why these fees exist.

“I would say that most student once they understand where those programs fees are going to they say ‘oh yes I see’ because they are directly related to the courses they take,” Davenport said.

Theater and cinema student, Harry Dunn hopes that with these fees, the departments will be able to purchase equipment needed within the program.

“I would hope that they would put it into getting us more equipment, I work in the potter cage and we always talk about ‘oh we need this, we need this, it would be nice if we have this,’” Dunn said. “I wish it would go into helping approve stuff, like instead of replacing stuff we could get better stuff and I would also hope that the fees would get more people grants and scholarships because going to school is expensive.”

Graphic design major, Sarah Acuff, wishes there was a better way to fo about the fees in regards to students.

“It’s a decent amount we have to pay each semester, so there is obviously a financial stretch that goes along with it but it’s not an unnecessary fee because we have very expensive machines that we use and expensive paper and ink that goes into the machines,” Acuff said. “It’s a weird balance because, on one hand, we need access to the stuff to complete our assignments and further our experience but at the same time, $400 depending on how many classes you’re taking is a lot. I think we would be able to function without the fees, but I wish there were a better way to do it.”

Due to restraints and rising costs within departments, Missouri Western relies on these fees to function normally, putting the money towards the rising technology and equipment needs, as well as faculty costs, assessment requirements and applied learning experiences needed within the program.

“I think people forget a lot that schools are businesses, they aren’t holistic charities,” Carney said. “It’s about their bottom line it’s about making sure they have enough money coming in so they can have a job. It’s not wrong, but it’s how things are.”