When Georgia resident Alison Ilg received her daughter Alyssa’s first college tuition bill from Georgia Southern University, she didn’t expect what she saw. Among the fees tacked onto her bill was a $100 student activity fee, a $100 technology fee and an $88 health fee, which allowed her daughter to visit the on-campus medical center.
“I did not expect to pay all of these when I sent my freshman daughter off to college a month ago,” Ilg says.
Unfortunately, Ilg isn’t the only parent paying for such fees. In fact, colleges are getting as creative as airlines at disguising their additional costs.
“A lot of public colleges tend to have an increase in cost covered through additional fees because their ability to raise tuition is restricted,” says Mark Kantrowitz, founder of FinAid.org and a columnist for MainStreet. He explains that, oftentimes, only state legislators can raise what is actually classified as tuition.
Private colleges, on the other hand, may have tuition locks in place. To circumvent this issue or avoid raising the baseline tuition, colleges institute fees instead, which can cover their extra expenses.
“The fees are specific to a particular service and they cover the cost of that service,” Kantrowitz says. This is why the charges, more often than not, are mandatory.
“You can’t get out of paying them,” Kantrowitz says. As such, students and parents need to look at the total cost of tuition and fees together before deciding whether or not a school’s financial requirements fit their budget. Incidentally, both the College Board and the Department of Education already do this when analyzing a school’s total price. Many schools also calculate fees for students on their websites.