The Board of Regents has yet again made the announcement that an “academic excellence” fee may be added to the tuition and fees required of students this spring to cover the 8% additional budget cuts from universities.
While this fee was long described as the “temporary measure” to cover losses, adding what could be up to $150 for a total $250 fee is an unfair financial burden to the students. Since this dubiously named academic excellence fee is specifically structured such that it is not covered by most financial aid, increasing the fee to the point where it is more costly than most other fees makes this measure actually financially prohibitive for students to go to school for the semester statewide.
Students are having a hard enough time finding even part-time jobs in this economy, so handing down the shortfall to students without their input feels like a punishment. If nothing else, students should be given the chance to pay the fee in installments over the semester, since no warning was given at the beginning of the year when most families do financial planning. Students are consumers of the public good of education who have been forced into new terms of agreement, and thus should be entitled to at least know what the new fee is accomplishing.
Most fees are reasonable costs towards attaining an education, since they are transparent as to what they cover. We realize that the budget shortfall must be covered somehow, but we sincerely believe that the manner should be decided at a university level. If there is no other way to cover the shortfall than forcing students into a separate fee structure, students at least deserve to know where their money is being spent. We hope that this new fee will be a wake-up call that finances may get worse before they improve and thus measures must be taken in order to assure that this sort of last minute budgeting does not become a future pattern.