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When potential students and their parents receive tuition statements and bills as they prepare to head off to college, one thing has changed from a generation or two ago – college fees. Students don’t only see items like tuition, room, and board listed, but they also see items like library, mentoring, and technology fees.
Sometimes the fees are used to improve or construct existing buildings and facilities. Perhaps an outdated gym needs a facelift or new workout equipment. In that case, the university may spread out the cost by adding in fees.
Families who think they have a good understanding of how much the college of their choice is charging for tuition, room, and board can have a big surprise when they see the list of added fees they are expected to pay. They won’t understand what projects colleges may have going on that could result in fees or even what any standard annually-charged fees the college might expect.
Shannon Vasconcelos, who is the director of college finance at College Coach, told the Boston Globe that deciphering all those fees and what their purpose is can be confounding at times. Parents can also feel a bit like their pockets are being picked.
If parents negotiate with the institution their child is considering attending, they might be able to get a fee removed. But it won’t be likely they’ll get many of them off their bill. And even if they can get them removed for the first year of their child’s college career, it doesn’t guarantee they won’t have to pay them other years.
Are Fees Common?
Fees are more common at universities and colleges now – it’s rarer to find a college with no added-on fees than ones that do have them. And fees have outpaced tuition as far as how quickly they are increasing.
According to Robert Kelchen, a Seton Hall University assistant professor who has examined student fees, tuition went up 80 percent from 2000 to 2017, the Boston Globe reported. Meanwhile during that same timeframe, public university fees went up by over 100 percent. These days, 21 percent of the money colleges bring in each year from tuition and fees solely comes from fees.
Fees are becoming increasingly common because of less money coming in, including less taxpayer money, and the fact that universities are hesitant to increase tuition. While more money isn’t typically coming in for universities, costs associated with education have continued to steeply climb, leaving institutions looking for ways to fill the gaps.
While being unpleasantly surprised by the level of the fees they encounter, students and their families might also be disappointed to realize that some forms of aid, such as scholarships, may not be able to be used to cover fees – leaving them to resort to borrowing more in federal or private student loans. That can be a big problem for fees that reach thousands of dollars on a bill.
Author: Shannon Serpette
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. When she’s not spending time with her children, she is often pursuing her favorite hobbies – running, metal detecting, kayaking, and reading about personal finance.