The Hidden (and Rising) Cost of Fees from Colleges

As a Counselor, you often have to help your students compare the costs of Colleges they are considering so they can make an informed decision. Tuition has continued to rise much faster than the cost of inflation (in fact, 3x’s faster than inflation)

Fees are actually rising at an even faster rate. I have two kids in College currently and recently received the bill for the Spring 2017 semester for one of them. Fees included a Technology Fee, Library Fee, Publication Fee, Student Service Fee, Student Center Fee, International Education Fee, Rec Sports Fee, Academic Advising Fee, and Registration Fee. These fees added up to four figures and when extrapolated out to 8 semesters or more will be more than 5 figures. That is a lot of money to pay in “fees”!

Many of your students and their parents won’t consider fees when looking at Colleges. These fees are frustratingly piled on top of a long list of expenses beyond tuition that many people never plan for or expect, or that can’t be covered by financial aid. Students who are on a tight budget sometimes are even forced to take out additional private loans (which typically have higher interest rates) to cover the cost of these fees.

By increasing fees, Colleges can hold down their actual tuition increases and claim their tuition only increased “x” percent when if the fee increases were included it would be a much higher percentage. Tuition gets all of the media attention, while fees are hidden to students and also to public knowledge and oversight. Many fees have been added to make up for state budget cuts, to avoid making tuition look like it’s rising too quickly, or because legislatures have ordered that tuition be frozen.

The Hechinger Report recently reported that in Missouri, for example, where public universities were stopped by law from raising tuition faster than inflation, they instead increased their fees by 138 percent over six years.  In Massachusetts, public universities had to return their revenue from tuition to the state but got to keep the money that they made from fees; the result was that tuition didn’t increase, while fees skyrocketed. Georgia’s Board of Regents added a $100 “special institutional fee” in 2009 when state funding was cut near the start of the recession. But while the funding has rebounded, the fee remains, and has increased to $450. Here is a link to  their full recent report on the rising cost of fees:

Another issue to be aware of is that so called full ride scholarships might sound as if they cover 100% of your students college costs but often don’t because they don’t cover the cost of fees. This is why it is very important that you make sure your students and their parents compare the complete cost of attending various colleges to make sure they get the complete picture before making their decision.

One benefit of publicizing this issue is that several schools have recognized that this is an issue and are rolling back fees and combining them into one larger fee package that includes many of the individual fees outlined above. The Hechinger Report article linked above includes some good examples.