Land of the Fees: WKU collects almost $1 million in course fees

Land of the Fees

Emma Collins

WKU collected just under $1 million in course fees from students during the 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to WKU’s academic resources manager.

Jessica Gilland, academic resources manager, said WKU allocated $970,000 in course fees for departments to use to cover over $973,000 worth of expenses. She said course fees are fees students must pay in addition to tuition which are used to cover the cost of materials or supplies used in individual classes.

Franklin junior James Hill said he understands why some people may think the additional course fees are unfair, but he thinks the benefits the fees bring outweigh the additional cost.

“There are some cases in which the money is worth it,” Hill said.

Students taking certain classes in the recreation major face some of the largest course fees across campus. 

An $800 fee covers four classes in the recreation and outdoor leadership programs. In an email, Tammie Stenger-Ramsey, associate professor, said because the classes are electives for the major, it affects only a few students. She said Recreation 437 is, however, a requirement for the outdoor leadership minor.

Strenger-Ramsey said the $800 fee covers the Recreation 335, 337, 435 and 437 courses, and averages out to $200 per course. 

Stenger-Ramsey said the fee covers the cost of equipment and books that students get to keep, as well as the cost of training course fees and travel.

“While $800 is a sizable course fee, for outdoor leadership courses of this type, the costs are extremely low,” Ramsey-Stenger said in an email. “If students were to do similar trips with a different organization, they would pay more than double these cost for similar experiences.”

Mechanical Engineering 180, Freshman Design II, has the second largest undergraduate fee for one class at $375.

Joel Lenoir, professor of mechanical engineering, is very familiar with the fee. Lenoir said he has seen the benefits of the fee both as the parent of a student who studied mechanical engineering and as a professor who teaches the course.

He said the fee is large, but it is necessary to ensure students receive a hands-on experience.

“I do believe as a parent and faculty member that they get their money’s worth,” Lenoir said.

Students in the class work with raw materials and machines to design and create a steam engine they can show potential employers, Lenoir said. The class fee pays for everything involved in producing the steam engine, including the software which Lenoir said is the “industry standard” for software used by mechanical engineers. Lenoir said without the fee, the class would not be the same.

“It’s the only way we have been able to do what we do,” Lenoir said.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is another one of WKU’s more expensive majors.

According to the required classes listed in the 2016-2017 undergraduate course catalog, students in the BSN program pay over $300 during their four semesters in the program in addition to tuition. The students must also pay a $400 fee for each semester they are in the BSN program, bringing the total cost of additional fees to over $1,900.

Sherry Lovan, coordinator of the BSN program, said the $400 fee and the course fees students pay help cover the price for some of the program’s requirements. She said the semester fee, specifically, covers the salaries for part-time employees.

Lovan said the program employs many part-time faculty members because of the Kentucky Board of Nursing’s requirement that nursing programs have at least one faculty member in a clinical setting for every 10 students.

“With 120 students entering the program each semester, the first semester alone must staff 24 labs and clinical sessions with full and part-time faculty,” Lovan said.

Lovan said some of the course fees also cover the cost of random drug screens which she said are part of being in a pre-professional program. She said other course fees cover the cost of equipment and supplies, including equipment used for simulations.

The simulation equipment includes mannequins for students to practice different procedures on. She said the equipment is expensive, and the program reuses equipment as much as possible to keep course fees low

“Honestly, you can’t reuse all the time,” Lovan said. “You have to have new equipment.”

Other majors, like economics, have class fees for every hour a student takes. The economics major charges $15 per credit hour for all undergraduate classes. Economics majors are required to take at least 11 economics classes, so by the time a student in the major graduates, he or she will have paid at least $495 in additional course fees.

Like the economics major, all degrees in the Gordon Ford College of Business have a $15 fee per credit hour. These fees were put into place Aug. 2015, according to a previous Herald article.

Hill said as a finance major he has had to pay the $15 per credit hour fee. He said it can be frustrating to have to pay an hourly fee in addition to tuition, but he said his experience has shown him the fees are useful.

This past summer Hill found an internship with a local bank. He said the business school’s internship coordinator helped him apply for the internship and work out some of the necessary details.

“She has helped me far more than that money is worth,” Hill said.

Other course fees are only $5, while others apply only to classes that meet on WKU’s main campus.

Gilland said some fees may only apply to classes that meet on WKU’s campus because only those students who meet face-to-face are able to use the supplies.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate to assess a student taking the same course online if they aren’t receiving the supplies,” Gilland said.

Gilland said course fees are carefully considered before being approved. She said departments can make requests which must then be approved by both the dean of the college and the provost. She said supporting documents are required to justify the need for the proposed fee.

Hill said he knows some students struggle to pay the fees, and he said he would support a small tuition increase for all students so that course fees could be removed.

“I think that would be more manageable for everyone,” Hill said.

A previous version of this story said the Recreation 437 course had an $800 course fee. The $800 fee covers four classes within the department: Recreation 335, 337, 435 and 437. The Herald regrets the error. 

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].