When you go to college, you mostly think about the costs of tuition and room and board, but there are many more costs: transportation, clothing, technology needs, books, entertainment, …and student fees.
What are student fees? They are an extra charge beyond tuition that is used to fund specific campus programs like student unions, recreational facilities, campus technology, libraries, and athletics.
Why are they significant to you? Because they are rising and increasing college costs. These fees have grown faster than tuition rates, especially at public colleges – 91% at public universities and 61% at private colleges.
These fees are growing for several reasons. One is that at public universities, some of the tuition dollars are used by the state which may subsidize their state campuses, but the universities can keep 100% of the fees charged. Also, it is students who vote for fees and increases, and most are heading off campus, not coming onto campus for the next four or five years. And, because these fees help fund amenities, they make the colleges able to be more competitive by attracting students to the fun things.
But, they are deadly for lower income students. Costs that keep mounting make it harder and harder for students struggling to just pay tuition to finish their education.
Is there hope? Yes! For one thing, college construction is finally slowing. The unions and recreation facilities have been built and should last for a while. Also, student enrollment is down, so universities must attract more students. The best way to do that now will be to lower tuition costs. Finally, some states and colleges are considering offering micro grants that will take care of extra costs like student fees, and these grants do not add to student debt.
It is wise for all college applicants to ask about student fees and see how much they will cost. Maybe less debt is worth the sacrifice of a state-of-the-art student union with a Starbucks.