Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tuition Is Only Half the Bill for College, by Mikayla Peters

Full-time students at UW-L might pay more than they expect for schooling.  The total cost of schooling, including segregated fees, room and board, enrollment fees, and other fees often doubles the cost of tuition. Few students recognize or look at this when thinking forward to college.

For a full-time student from Wisconsin taking 12-18 credits on campus, the cost per semester is $4,385. Before 2008, the cost per semester was $3,812. This cost includes segregated fees. For each additional credit over 18, Wisconsin students are charged $316.03. The University of Wisconsin system claims on their website that “There is an additional tuition charge of $197.93 per credit for all credits over 18.” 

Fees make a difference, fees such as meal plans, residence halls, segregated fees, enrollment fees, and other fees. The total cost of schooling is not regulated by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. Fees vary by school. According to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, the University of Fox Valley costs $5,025 yearly for resident students, the lowest in the UW system. The highest undergraduate tuition is at University of Madison, at $10,403. This means there is a $5,378 difference between the highest and lowest tuitions in the system. These numbers show that little regulation leaves the cost up to the decision of the school. At $8,769, the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse is near the higher end of tuition costs. Tuition may be the only thing students look at when deciding where to go to college. It seems to be the only thing the state focuses on.

State subsidy focuses solely on tuition. After adding in all the other fees required in going to the University of Wisconsin, the state only covers 14.28% of the total cost. That leaves students scrambling to find funding for the other 85.72%.  This often means part- or full-time jobs taken on by full-time students, applications for scholarships, and stress placed upon the students. The stress alone is a cost often not taken into consideration when looking at colleges. Students must find transportation to and from work. This means either taking the bus, getting a ride from a coworker, riding a bike, walking, or bringing a car to campus. Bringing a car to campus means an added cost of a parking pass, which can cost between $194 and $244 per semester. These fees add up over time. Even required fees, such as meal plans, are sometimes overlooked by students.

At UW-L, the meal plans can cost up to $1,225 per term, depending on the plan chosen by the student. 19 meals per week, which means approximately 2 meals per day, plus 5 extra meals, cost $1,225. Cheaper options include 14 meals per week, 2 meals per day, which costs $1,205. For 75 block meals on campus, plus $50 in campus cash, students pay $620. For 50 block meals, students pay $345. All meal plans include $75 in campus cash, excluding block meal plans. In order to eat 3 times a day on campus through their meal plan, students must choose the most expensive option. Students trying to save money may end up going hungry for a while. Also, meals reset at the end of each week, leaving no room to save up meals for a day or week when students know they won’t be able to eat out at all. Those meals aren’t refunded. Students who sign up for too many meals end up paying more for nothing. If a student can’t eat 19 meals a week, they either lose the meals or give them away to friends, family, or classmates.

The residence hall pricing varies depending on the hall and number of roommates. For one semester in a traditional hall double-room, students pay $1,750. For a regular triple room, students pay the same amount, $1,750. For a regular triple in Hutchinson hall, students save about $200 per semester, paying only $1,550 per semester. This is the cheapest option of on-campus housing. Eagle hall has three types of rooms, triple, double, or single. A triple room costs $1,950 per semester. A double room costs $300 more, at $2,250 per semester. A single room costs $425 more than a double room and $725 more than a triple room, at $2,675 per semester. That price is identical to the pricing of a room in Reuter hall. 

The average apartment in Lacrosse costs between $250 and $300 per person per month. For nine months (September through May), the cost can vary between $2,250 and $2,700. After adding in expenses and parking, the cheaper option is living on campus. The cheapest on-campus living is in Hutchinson hall, and the most expensive housing option is either Eagle hall or Reuter hall. The difference in price between the two is $1,125, or almost the cost of the cheaper meal plan. But, meal plans and parking permits are not the only extra fees on campus.

Lacrosse’s segregated fees are $459.13 per semester. Six schools in the UW system have higher segregated fees, including UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison, UW-Green Bay, UW-Parkside, UW-River Falls, and UW-Steven Point. UW-Green Bay has the highest segregated fees, coming up at $657 per semester. UW-Stout has the lowest segregated fees, at only $27.36 per semester. 

Segregated university fees is a phrase used to describe charges in addition to educational or academic fees that are paid by all students. They cover services, programs, and facilities. The fees are used for recreational, cultural, and leisure activities and groups that are not state-funded.

The Segregated University Fee Advisory Committee develops the budget for segregated fees, and the Student Senate approves them. The fees are compulsory. They are not user fees. Rather, they function as a tax on students to improve the quality of the university. Individual students have no control over where the fees go, much like other fees.

The green fund is a $7 required fee for students. It was put into place in 2008. Altogether, the university receives $60,000 per semester from students for projects that improve the environmental impact of the university. These funds do not go towards bikes, bike storage, bike racks, trees, landscaping, plants unrelated to rain gardens or green roofs, or any item put in any other department’s jurisdiction. 

The highest priority of the green fund is that projects be conspicuous and noticeable, that funds are matched through other organizations, and that the energy produced by the university is reduced. Students can create projects to submit to the green fund. The projects are reviewed by a board and chosen based on the priorities listed above. 

On campus at UW-L, students have recently been seeing signs for a new Rec Center. That would add another $14 dollars per semester per student, totaling $120,000 per year for the Rec Center. This is double the green fund on campus. The precedence put on the recreation center says a lot about the campus itself. 

Other fees include enrollment fees, registration fees, service fees, graduation fees, and transaction fees.
There is an enrollment fee of $160 for new students only, which includes orientation, advising, and registration. All new and transfer students taking a placement exam must pay $32 for the placement test. 
Each semester, each student pays $15 in registration fees, $6.50 to career services, and $2 to use D2L. In order to graduate, students must pay $42. 

Also, for any credit or debit card transactions, the university charges 2.75% convenience fee. For insufficient funds, including returned checks, students pay a $20 handling charge in any University of Wisconsin school.