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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Fee, fie, fo, fum”

    Mandatory fees insidious contributions to the cost of college

    Over the last few weeks, the UA’s student leaders have boldly fought an uphill battle against this year’s proposed tuition increases. Thousands of students have filled out blue survey cards, to be delivered to the Arizona Board of Regents as an expression of student support for a tuition freeze.ÿMembers of the Arizona Students’ Association have diligently lobbied legislators to provide the $25 million that would otherwise be raised by this year’s tuition hike.ÿAnd at today’s ABOR tuition hearings, students will have the chance to speak out against the rising cost of college.

    Although a full tuition freeze is unlikely this year, the effort to fight an increase is commendable – and sends a strong message to policymakers statewide. But as students work themselves into a financial frenzy over rising tuition, they should take care not to overlook a humbler, more pernicious university revenue-raiser: annual student fees.

    Unlike tuition increases, tacking on fees to pay for individual services usually engenders little controversy among students. Although tuition increases spawn annual squabbles and draw student interest, fee proposals are easily overlooked.

    Advocates for student fees argue that they make the funding process more transparent, because money is raised and allocated for a specific purpose – like subsidizing an inefficient student union or bailing out expensive student programs.

    But though fees are an easy way to direct funding, in practice, they’re far from transparent. UA students already pay fees for the Student Recreation Center, technology on campus, the Arizona Financial Aid Trust, KAMP Student Radio and ASA. Annual fee increases are rapidly creating a confusing web of charges, each allocated to an individual service. That’s a bad idea. Instead, UA ought to keep things clean, and roll the various fees into a simple tuition increase, exposed to a higher standard of student scrutiny.

    More important, this year’s proposed fee is an especially sneaky one. The proposal to be presented to the regents totals $80 over the next two years – well over the $47 fee students indicated support for earlier this year. And unlike other fees, which carry enumerated and targeted goals, this one is designed to cover a hodgepodge of services, including better food on campus, extended SafeRide service and improvements to the Student Union Memorial Center. If a fee is inevitable, it should at least be limited and explicit. This year’s is neither.

    In his annual tuition proposal, President Robert Shelton called support for a student fee “”comprehensive and impressive,”” noting that “”twice as many students responded to the Web-based survey, compared with other student referenda, and 78 percent of the respondents supported some level of student services.”” But the student fee survey is a pitiful referendum at best. Only 2,490 undergraduate students took this year’s fee survey, conducted in early October.

    There’s no question that they indicated interest in the services provided by the fee – but with the opinions of so few students included, it’s nowhere near a mandate for rolling out the fees.

    Mandatory fee increases shouldn’t be used as substitutes for tuition increases. Instead, fee proposals should come as part of the most important fee of all: student tuition.

    OPINIONS BOARD: Editorials are determined by the Wildcat Opinions Board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Sarah Keeler and Connor Mendenhall.

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