Fees on the table for SA task force

Student Association executives will lead a commission this fall to audit student fees, following up on campaign goals to combat the escalating costs of college.

Student Association President John Richardson said the joint committee of students and staff would hold the University accountable for costs such as printing, study abroad, on-campus employer recruitment and classroom technology.

Printing costs 9 cents per page, and study abroad fees range from $550 to $6,150, depending on the program and its housing options. Registration fees for the off-campus programs tack on $35 to student bills each semester. Employers must pay between $200 and $600 for a table at the Career Fair and students in some schools, like the College of Professional Studies, pay $50 per year for technology fees.

Affordability has been a focus for Student Association leaders in recent years. Last year, SA President Jason Lifton and Executive Vice President Rob Maxim knocked out the $100 graduation fee after a yearlong lobbying effort.

Cost of attendance has also been a central focus of University President Steven Knapp’s tenure. Despite dropping off the Forbes’s top 10 list of priciest colleges last year, the University’s reputation as one the nation’s most expensive schools remains.

After the task force compiles a list of fees, members will create recommendations based on each fee’s “reasonability metric” – the cost of the fee compared to the true cost of the service.

“The library continues to tell us it costs 9 cents [per page] to print, but I don’t believe them,” he said.

Last year, Senator Charlie Rybak, U-At large, sought to push down printing costs to 4 cents per page. His proposal, the “GW Gutenberg Plan,” after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the first printing press with moveable type, said it costs the school just over 3 cents to print a page.

Executive Vice President Ted Costigan blames the University for passing on the brunt of budget cuts to students.

“The problem at GW is that the library is already strapped for cash, as it has not received an operational budget increase in seven years,” Costigan said, adding that the additional printing expense can set students back more than $100 per semester – which amounts to more than 1,000 printed pages.

Identifying all student fees will be a slow process. No timeline has been set for the project, and it is likely next year’s SA leaders will inherit the commission before recommendations are completed, Richardson said.

“Fees originate from all over the University by all different departments – academic, non-academic, housing, facilities,” Richardson said. “It’s going to take some time to figure out all the stuff students pay for.”

The committee, comprised of about a dozen members, will be finalized by the end of this week, and the first meeting will take place by the end of October, Richardson said.

The power to actually eliminate fees lies with the Board of Trustees, which will receive the group’s final recommendations, Richardson said.

Richardson and Costigan invited five students to join the committee and are working with the Office of the President to seek out staff volunteers. Their goal is to bring in representatives from the Student Accounts Office who are already familiar with many of the student fees.

Sophomore Noah Resnick said he joined the commission because he wants to protect students and their families from excessive fees.

“It’s unfair to the student body. The University has a responsibility to limit hidden fees, especially because of the tough economic times we’re in,” Resnick said. “My guess is a lot of the fees are unfair and unnecessary.”

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