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At Some Colleges, New Student Fees to Make Up for Drop in State Funding

Aug 30, 2011

From American River College to Westfield State University, the effects of reduced funding and budget crunches are being felt. And who winds up paying? In most cases it's the students who are shelling out more in the way of new and increasing fees. The Education Insider looks at the effect this practice is having on students and how some states are making schools answer for these increases.

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By Harrison Howe

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Students Paying for Shortfalls in Funding

A $150 matriculation fee imposed for freshmen and transfer students at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Increases in parking and student housing fees at University of Central Florida. A $180 fee for temporary repair and maintenance at Indiana University-Bloomington. A 'special institutional fee' at Georgia public universities. A fee increase of $10 per unit for students of California community colleges, which could be raised even higher.

These are just a few examples of fee hikes going on at colleges and universities across the country. With the continued recession leading to further budget cuts and decreases in federal funding, this trend is not expected to end any time soon. In some cases, increases in mandatory fees are more than doubling that of tuition hikes. Public universities in Colorado saw fees rise 142% between 2006 and 2010, as compared to 69% in tuition increases.

Some states are seeking to control these astronomical rises in mandatory fees. New Jersey Senator Joe Kyrillos wants state colleges and universities to show fee allocations. North Dakota has already begun to require state universities to publish online how fees are spent. And in summer 2011, Colorado made it a law that students could question proposed fee increases.

Making higher education institutions explain reasons for tuition and fee hikes became a federal issue when the government in June 2011 made it a requirement of more than 500 colleges and universities to submit reports regarding reasons for higher costs. These schools will also be forced to report exactly how they will address this issue.

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Increasing Fees Making It More Difficult to Determine College Costs

Oregon Student Association's executive director Emily McLain told USA Today in July: 'A big part of planning for college (is) knowing how much things are going to cost.' The imposing of new and increased fees is not allowing students to plan appropriately. Sometimes these fees are raised after students have already paid and begun classes.

While higher fees can of course cause hardships for particularly low-income students, some are not opposed if the extra funds are used for construction, maintenance or other ways to improve schools. Across Colorado, students themselves have voted to approve higher fees to pay for new housing units and updated classrooms and labs.

Still, many students are simply not in a position to take on more expenses for college. Some fear the result of increased mandatory fees could lead to the extreme: students will simply choose not to go to college at all. Fremont, California schoolteacher Cheryl Schaeffer told Capitol Weekly on July 21st: 'With these fee increases, I can only see students going in the opposite direction of college.' Saint Mary's College student Nicole Stith added, 'I'm really hoping that the fees do not go up any more, or else I will completely quit school.'

While some schools raise fees and try to keep tuition hikes in check, many public universities continue to increase tuition to cover operating costs.

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