On an average, students pay approximately $200-$300 per term in fees, not counting tuition and books. Some of these fees are specific to the field of study, while others are added on for online classes.
As budgets are in the planning stage for next year, an increase in tuition and student fees is almost a guarantee. The amount of the increase often determined by the increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Most students already pay a substantial amount of their income for their schooling, even if they are fortunate enough to have financial aid. Therefore the idea of fees increasing can bring about concern, anger and even despair. However, understanding what fees are being raised and why can help still some of those fears and uncertainties.
There are many factors that the administration and boards look at before making decisions to increase or decrease the fees that will affect students. Which fees face increases are determined by the CPI, the number of enrollment and the needs of the campus.
Economic downturn and the loss of jobs in Douglas County a few years ago caused a spike in enrollments. With that increase, there was a sudden influx of money, which created a nice reserve that the college has since been dipping into. However, now that reserve is depleted.
“There are costs that we can’t control, like the PERS, that will go up close to $400,000 a year. For a small college that is a huge amount,” said Dr. Debra Thatcher, UCC’s president. “Right now if the legislature will fund community colleges at the same level they did last year we would have a $1.2 million shortfall and we couldn’t operate.”
In order to increase funds and bring in more revenue, UCC is currently looking at what cuts can be made in the budget for next year and beyond. “There are ways we can cut back that won’t really have a negative affect on the college (including) some of our traveling, some of our supplies,” Thatcher said. The new sports programs have the potential of attracting students that might go elsewhere to play their particular sports. “You invest a small amount up front, and you get a return behind the students that wouldn’t usually go here because of the athletic activities,” she said.
However, fees will still rise. Tuition faces a $2 increase during the 2017-18 school year. Compared to other colleges around the state, that is a small increase. “Every community college in the state is looking at tuition increases. At last week’s president meeting, about one-third had already made decisions to raise tuition by anywhere from $5- $7,” Thatcher said.
The Distant Education fee, which covers the use of Canvas, is supposed to be self-sustaining. That fund is now falling short. Administration now faces two options to increase the fee, including charging everyone an increased global fee or just increasing the current $25 distance education fee by $10. As of March 9, the board is considering the $10 increase over the global fee, according to Rebecca Redell, UCC’s Vice President and CFO. The increase would make the DE fund self-sustaining.
The registration fee may also return. Prior to 2014, students paid a one-time application fee of $25 when registering for classes at UCC. With this fee in place, of those who applied, approximately 73 percent came to school immediately, with 90 percent following later. In 2014, the fee was eliminated.
Since then, the amount of fraudulent applications that are submitted only for the gain of financial aid has increased dramatically while the gap between those who apply and those who actually attend classes has decreased by 58 percent. Fraudulent applications not only cause a deficit in the budget, but also can hamper some students from being able to take classes they need for their career path, as those spots are already filled. With the return of the fee, now a proposed $10, Dr. Thatcher hopes to see less fraud. This one-time fee will not be charged to returning students.
The Student Activities fee or SAFEE is also being reconsidered. This fee is used to supplement student run clubs, The Mainstream, bus passes for Umpqua Transit, the backpack program, Spring Fling and other activities held on campus throughout the year. The fee as of now is $2 per credit. Students, including ASUCC officers have asked for an increase of $1 per credit to help to continuous sustain both the position of Director of Student Life and currently funded clubs and programs, as well as potentially allow for the set up of scholarships, and emergency grants, according to Ali Lape, ASUCC’s president.
There has been some reluctance by the administration to pass the increase, due to “how some other fees were spent,” Dr. Thatcher said. She states, “We are really rethinking that now. Because students should know about the increase in other fees first. If the fees raise $2, a $1 increase isn’t so bad. But if it goes up $5, do you still want that $1? Maybe you do; I just want people to make that decision knowing about the other fees. I don’t want people to be surprised.”
The conversation will continue throughout the next few weeks, as all the current and upcoming fees are examined. Students will have an opportunity to voice their concerns during upcoming open forums.