College experience includes a dose of fees State's requirement for self-supporting services drives cost

August 02, 1998|By Paula Lavigne | Paula Lavigne,SUN STAFF

As parents and students dish out dollars to Maryland colleges or universities this year, up to about 30 percent of their annual payment will finance services and projects outside the classroom - shuttle buses, student unions, new buildings, athletics - all rolled into a blanket of "student fees."

Universities have had to use students' fees - and surplus charges for certain courses or majors - to fill the budget gap left by lagging state funds, administrators and students say.

At the same time, tuition has increased at all of the University of Maryland's nine four-year institutions that offer undergraduate study.

Depending on the university, mandatory student fees go toward transportation, construction of new buildings, athletics, campus recreation, student unions, shuttle buses, health insurance, day care, cultural events, student publications, campus radio stations and student government. Whether or not students use these things, they pay for them.

All fees must be presented to and approved by the University of Maryland Board of Regents, which set the standards for mandatory fees in a 1990 policy.

Tom Vogler, director of budget and fiscal analysis at University of Maryland, College Park - which receives the most state aid - said the state requires that these extra departments or services be "self-supporting," which means they must generate revenue through fees or other charges, such as the athletic department's nonstudent tickets for University of Maryland football games.

'One of those things'

Vogler said the fees should be accepted as part of the "college experience."

"I guess it's one of those things to be a well-rounded student, to be involved in sports, arts ... a lot of tradition," he said.

To be well-rounded, a full-time in-state undergraduate student at UMCP, the system's largest traditional four-year university with about 25,000 undergraduate students, will pay $3,894 in tuition and $805 in fees - about 17 percent - in 1999. At Towson University, with an undergraduate enrollment of about 13,000, student fees make up about 25 percent of the $4,120 total this year. At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, enrollment 2,862, about 23 percent of the $3,240 total goes to student fees this year. Most mandatory fees are figured into the advertised tuition.

UMCP senior Jonathan M. Busch, student government president, said he was in favor of the increase in student fees to support student groups and activities, but wished the money could come from the state legislature instead of students' pockets.

Busch said he was concerned about a new $50 fee for a new arena at College Park and said administrators should heed students' opinions before increasing fees to finance new projects.

"Just because we don't hold offices with mahogany desks doesn't mean we aren't the largest campus constituency," he said.

Special course or major fees - from $50 to $200 - brought Towson University students to the campus in protest last April, said senior and student government president Frank W. Richardson.

Certain courses or majors that require high-tech computers or other equipment were assessed extra fees, such as the $200 required to take advanced composition courses or $50 for some laboratory courses.

During the protest, Richardson said, students blamed the university for spending too much money on its new logo and name - changing from Towson State University to Towson University last year. He said the school was "putting fees on use because it was spending money sloppily."

Towson's position

Towson University Associate Provost M. J. McMahon said the course fees were assessed because the university needed money to buy the new equipment for classes that relied on the latest technology. A letter to students promised them that the money would improve their classes and that they would be "better prepared" for their future.

And, McMahon said, unlike the across-the-board fees, only students who took those classes or majors would be required to pay for them, she said.

"We don't want to raise tuition," she said. "We determined who uses what on campus and assessed the fees fairly and reasonably."

Vogler said the College Park campus has initiated similar course fees for the same reason.

He admits state funds have dictated an increase in fees, but says Gov. Parris N. Glendening's commitment to an 8.2 percent - or $49.2 million - increase in state funds for 1999 should slow down or stop the growth of both tuition and fees.

He said though students would be paying $20 million of the new arena's $100 million price, the state would be paying about $50 million to $60 million. Though he said the fee is necessary, he's "not a fan of raising student fees" - especially because he has a son entering Frostburg State University this fall.

Brian P. Carlson, president of Frostburg's student government association, said he understood the need to pay mandatory fees - and course fees if they meant the technology and classes would be improved - but he wished someone could lessen the demand on students.

Total cost vs. mandatory fees

School.......... .......... 1999........ 1999.......Fees as %

............. ............. cost........ fees...... of total cost

Bowie State... ............ $3,467...... $ 748..... 21.5%

Coppin State...... ........ $3,164...... $ 668..... 21.1%

Frostburg State............ $3,776...... $ 684..... 18.1%

Salisbury State............ $4,002...... $1,146.... 28.6%

Towson U........... ....... $4,335...... $1,132.... 26.1%

U. of Baltimore..... ...... $3,966...... $ 560..... 14.1%

Baltimore Co...... ..... $4,847...... $ 957..... 19.7%

College Park..... ...... $4,699...... $ 805..... 17.1%

Eastern Shore..... ..... $3,585...... $1,008.... 28.1%

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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