Why are there so many course fees?

By Anne Dudley

What is the point of all these VCD class fees?

While riding the bus one day, I overheard some students talking about course fees and printing costs (Disclaimer: I do not know them nor do I know their majors/programs of study). They were wondering why some of their art related courses allotted for printing fees while others did not. The students were discussing that when printing fees are not included in tuition, they are forced to pay out-of-pocket. This situation got me thinking about our Visual Communication Design (VCD) students.

So, what is the point of fees? How are they determined?

LuEtt Hanson, Associate Dean of the College of Communication and Information and AnnMarie LeBlanc, Director of the School of Visual Communication Design were able to help me, and hopefully you as well, understand.

Purpose: The purpose of course fees are to cover additional expenses, depending on the needs of that course.

How are they added or changed?

Well, it’s not an easy or quick determination. According to Hanson, the process is similar to changing curriculum. Departments must first fill out a form justifying the fee. Then the fee has to be approved by the department or school, then the College, then the office of Tim Martin, Associate Vice President for Academic Budget and Resources, and finally, the Board of Trustees. All of that! Just for a fee!

And, the above groups can vote against the fee, ask for more information or description, or change the amount at any step in the process! Who knew it could be this complex!?

The ‘Recommendation to Change Special Course Fees’ form lists several reasons for changing course fees such as cost of materials that students will use or retain, activities or field trips off-campus, purchasing of tools or items for instruction or testing, purchasing of products that are significantly cheaper to students if bought in large quantities, such as art supplies, or fees that may allot for special types of instruction that are more costly, such as in flight programs.

Course enrollment numbers and projections of enrollment are also taken into consideration (this has to deal with how much income the course can expect).

Hanson offered some insight as to the printing question that began this post.  Some printing costs may not be fully covered in VCD courses because last year, VCD tried to increase some of their course fees and their request was amended, ultimately lowering it.  So, students may be covered until the funds from the fee run out, and then will have to pay per print. With many students relying on loans to pay for tuition and fees, out-of-pocket expenses can be a challenge.

LeBlanc added, that if the fees were approved as they were submitted, all printing would be covered. Because only some of the fee was covered, only some of the printing is covered currently.

According to LeBlanc, the goal of these fees were to:

1) eliminate the need for printing off campus,

2) to provide quality control,

3) to provide a lower cost per item,

4) assure consistency among the students’ output.

“The dollar amount of the assessment was determined by multiplying the number and size of required prints by costs per print (as indicated by the printer manufacturer). The fee will pay for paper, ink and printer maintenance. The School of Visual Communication gains no profit,” LeBlanc said.

Image from Everystockphoto.com

Fee differences may also be the result of the nature of the class itself. Photo Illustration classes have a set number of prints that students will need to make. Other courses may not be as consistent in the number of required prints.

As students, we sometimes think that fees are like little penalties that we don’t necessarily understand. It’s nice to know that a lot of time, energy and thought go into them!

Note from the author: Policies and processes are subject to change. Even as I wrote this article a process in applying course fees changed. Writing this post reinforced my understanding of the amount of consideration our faculty and staff take in applying fees and the great extent to which they have the student’s best interest in mind.

Anne Dudley is a master of public relations student and graduate assistant in the Dean’s Office of the College of Communication and Information.

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