Throughout her five semesters at WKU, Bowling Green senior Autumn Minor, 31, said she has had to pay between $1,500 and $2,000 in course fees and even more for art supplies on top of tuition.
Minor said she has taken out about $6,000 in student loans and received a transfer grant to attend WKU from Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Without her financial aid, she said she would not be able to afford college.
“If they could be more transparent about where the money is going, then I think more people would be more apt to pay it,” Minor said.
As of Oct. 8, WKU had collected about $618,000 in student fees for the 2018-19 fiscal year. In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the expected amount WKU has budgeted to receive from student fees is about $1.4 million. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, WKU received about $1.4 million in student fees, according to Finance and Administration Office documents.
President Timothy Caboni has said his administration is taking a more comprehensive review of the university’s fee structure. The review began around the spring 2017 semester, and he said changes may be made to fee amounts in the fall of 2019.
“We want to make them more understandable and more targeted if at all possible,” Caboni said about the fees.
Minor is a graphic design and printmaking double major and transferred to WKU from SKYCTC in the fall of 2016. On Mondays and Wednesdays, she attends class for about nine hours with very few breaks and comes in early to work on labs.
For the fall 2018 semester, in-state tuition sat at $5,301 for full-time students. For some of her required graphic design classes, Minor said she has had to pay course fees ranging from $75 to $125, fees she did not find justified.
Additionally, some art supplies Minor was required to buy for her classes included $80 copper plates, $30 mesh screens and special paper for her printmaking class, which costs $3-4 per sheet to print. Last semester when she took 12 hours, she said she had to pay about $600 in art supplies.
"I know books are expensive, but art supplies cost way more over the course of a semester," Minor said.
Beyond the costs of being an art student, Minor has paid other fees more commonly associated with most students: online course fees, course withdrawal fees and parking permit fees.
The basic commuter parking permit fee for 2018-2019 costs $240. Other permit costs range from $50 to $265 per year.
To withdraw from a course, a student must pay $50 and will not receive a refund if it’s done past the drop date, which is about two weeks into the semester.
One particular student fee that created controversy at the Board of Regents’ June budget meeting was the increased online course fee from $100 to $150 per hour. With this increase, a three-hour online course now costs $450.
At Kentucky public universities where students can take an online course as part of the regular cost of tuition, the fees range from $10 to $65 per credit hour, according to a chart provided to the WKU Board of Regents.
For a first-year student from fall 2018 to spring 2019, the estimated cost of attendance is about $20,000 to $22,000, according to WKU’s website.This includes tuition, housing, books and supplies, parking and other fees.
What that estimated cost of attendance on WKU’s website does not explicitly include is the amount that a student will pay for fees that are course-specific, as well as some other mandatory fees.
Mandatory student fees include a $30 parking structure fee, a $218 student athletic fee, a $62 student centers fee and $70 for Downing Student Union renovation bonds. Additional academic fees include a $50 late registration fee, a $50 schedule change fee and a $50 graduation fee.
For some classes at WKU, students are required to pay a course-specific fee that is relative to the department and the course. A course-specific fee is an added fee to a class for a specific purpose or for the completion of a project.
Course fee prices range from $7 to $500. Some of the more expensive course fees come from classes in departments such as horticulture, art, nursing and recreation. The Gordon Ford College of Business requires students to pay an additional $15 per class taken. In the nursing and horticulture departments, some course fees are more than $100.
When Louisville freshman Rodijett Jones came to WKU, she said she thought it would be a more affordable option for college. Although she received a few scholarships, Jones said she has had to take out more than $10,000 in student loans and work in order to pay for her education.
Jones, a musical theater major, said the price of her college education was higher than she anticipated because of her course fees, which she said she did not believe were as transparent as they should have been. One of her course fees was $50 for a class that combined music and dance.
“I feel like $50 is a lot for a fee, considering I’m only taking the class for just a few months or weeks,” Jones said.
The total amount of course fees that WKU collects from all of its departments is about $41,407, according to the bursar’s office.
In a meeting with the Herald editorial board, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Terry Ballman said she had received a draft for a proposed academic fee review. While she hadn’t fully reviewed the document yet, she said she hopes to get the process started soon.
“We want to keep WKU affordable,” Ballman said. “A fee for any course should be appropriate.”
The proposal calls for a committee review of existing fees related to academics. The committee would include two associate deans, department chairs to represent all the academic colleges, a budget manager and representatives from the Student Government Association, University Senate and the Bursar’s Office.
Ballman said fees determined as problematic by the committee would be discussed with the respective colleges. From there, the committee would present recommendations to the provost on all academic fees, including those which remain questionable after meetings with colleges. The fees listed in the recommendation could potentially be eliminated, reduced or reclassified.
Student regent Stephen Mayer was the only member of the Board of Regents to vote against approving the 2018-19 operating budget because of its increases of tuition and online course fees. Mayer said during and after the meeting he believed the increases put more financial burden on students.
When students have to pay more for mandatory and academic fees, Mayer said it takes away from money they could use to pay for rent and food.
“I think the review is 100 percent necessary,” Mayer said. “Evaluating the university’s fee structure is necessary to do on a regular basis.”
Caboni said he wants to grow the number of financial aid opportunities for students to help them afford what he called the “WKU Experience,” the affordable college opportunity that he said he wants WKU to offer its students.
“We know affordability and success is an issue and we want to push hard on that,” Caboni said, referring to more discount strategies and need-based scholarships.
In an email to faculty and staff, Brian Kuster advised them to be aware of the rising financial burdens students face. He said faculty or students struggling with finances and finding it a barrier to graduation should visit the Division of Enrollment and Student Experience.
Another office Kuster advised students use is Student Financial Assistance. In the email he said SFA can assist with FAFSA completion, grant and scholarship applications, verification, student and parent loans or general financial aid questions. Additionally, he said the Advising and Career Development Center is available to help students through challenges.
Louisville freshman Megan Watson, a political science major, said she would not be able to afford college if it were not for financial aid and student loans. She said she felt like WKU did not have enough accessible programs to help students pay for college.
“School is already expensive and to add that on, it’s ridiculous,” Watson said, regarding her $75 political science course fee. “It’s like they’re telling you, ‘Either you can take out a loan, or you can stay home and not go to college.’”
Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.
COURSE FEE INFORMATION:https://www.wku.edu/bursar/coursefees2.pdf