Fees add up, but where to they come from?

By Kayah Gausman, NewsNetNebraska

Tony Falcone, director of the Cornhusker Marching Band, has to charge fees every semester. Fees for uniforms, shoes, and instruments are unavoidable.

But when you add these fees up, they’re still less than most textbooks cost for other courses.

“I’m very aware of it. It’s something that is important to me, that we not gauge students,” Falcone said. “So we try to keep them reasonable and only do what’s necessary.”

Tuition, room and board and books get the headlines, but there’s a range of fees students find as they go through school that they have to pay. Band fees, lab fees, even a fee that students pay to graduate.

So why do these fees exist?

Depends on the fee. See a full list of university-approved fees here.

Some go to equipment, upgrades, software, and other things that exist to make a student’s life easier. Like getting tests graded faster.

“I’m a genetics exam grader so I get paid a salary to grade exams, and I know that the students, I believe, get charged a special fee for that,” Kayla Kumm, a senior pre-med student at UNL said.

“I guess I just don’t question the system because I feel like that’s the way it is, and I don’t think I can do anything about it,” Kumm said.

Kumm is going on to pursue a medical degree, which is one of the most expensive academic certifications that a student can obtain. Paying for medical school requires some major saving effort, and the extra fees Kumm is paying to graduate could definitely be put to use elsewhere.

“It’s a little more stressful,” she said. “Like I wish I could save more now and then that could be put towards paying my huge bills in the future.”

However, some professors assess these special fees by complete accident; some students end up paying fees that a professor didn’t intentionally assess.

“I think it’s dumb. I mean I know that some classes, when you sign up it says, ya know, special fee, 25 dollars or whatever, and most of the time that isn’t even addressed,” Michelle Pineda said. “You never see the result of that special fee.”

Pineda is a senior advertising student in the college of journalism and mass communications at UNL. As she prepares to enter the real world, she’s anxious about her financial preparedness.

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“If they’re charging it, there has to be a reason, and if there is no reason, then what’s the point of the 25 dollars?” Pineda said. “That’s money I could use. I’m a poor college student.”

After graduation, students owe an average of more than $26,000. Two-thirds of college graduates leave with debt of some kind, whether it be student loans or debt accumulated while students had no job and went to school full time.

The additional fees that a student pays depends on the program that they’re a part of, too. For example, a distance education student taking classes online will pay a technology fee, a library fee, a mail-processing fee for exams that are sent in, a separate registration fee per semester, and an overall fee just to participate as a distance education student.

So how does a professor end up charging these fees?

The university uses an application process in order to approve them. There are criteria to meet and deadlines for the applications.

Some of the fees are necessary for classes. The equipment that students pay for on the side are things that aren’t in the budget, and the class can’t operate without them.

“I don’t think we could do what we do the way we do it, without [these fees],” Falcone said. “When I assign a textbook I try to make sure it’s something relevant that they’re going to want to hang on to.”

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Because of all of the equipment necessary for marching band, including uniforms, instruments, and other things, the fees are somewhat unavoidable.

“I think it’s equitable with the way things are done in other courses of a similar nature,” Falcone said.

“When you add it all up, and this touches another nerve, but when you add it all up it’s still less than what a textbook is for another course,” he said. “There are reasons why we charge the fees, and we’re as up front about it as possible.”