David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Academia as a Fee-fdom

April 8, 2014

How would you feel if GM or Ford started adding a "safety fee" that you paid on top of the MRP to allow the company to build safer cars?

How would you feel if those same car companies added a "fuel efficiency fee" that you paid on top of the MRP to allow the company to design more fuel efficient cars -- in the future?

How would you feel if HBO charged an "entertainment fee," added, of course, to your cable bill to be used to develop more entertaining programs?

How would you feel if Levi's charged a "comfort fee" that would be used to design more comfortable clothing?

How would you feel if Outback Steakhouse charged a "meat quality" fee that would allow them to buy better beef?

How would you feel if your local tanning salon charged a "browning fee" that would allow them to invest in better technology?

How would you feel if Verizon charged you a "connectivity fee" that was earmarked to build more cell towers?

If you respond "angry" to any of these, then you know how students in the Cal State University system feel now that Cal State campuses are charging "success fees!"  Yes, Cal State Fullerton "students starting in the fall, will pay a 'student success fee' each semester earmarked for such things as technology upgrades, expanded library hours, increased course availability and improvements to athletic facilities."  In a story about student protests regarding these fees, the reasons for the fees go on to include "to help pay for more classes, faculty hiring, counseling and other services."

Give us a break!  Aren't these the core programs that you are supposed to provide (well, maybe not the stupid athletic facilities) and are supposed to be funded through normal funding.  I am sure the California system came up with these as a counter to the decreasing state aid it's receiving.  But, let's call shenanigans.  Manipulate the language as much as you want.  To quote, Morrissey, "Dial-a-cliche": If it looks like a duck, it is probably a duck; Sometimes a cigar is a cigar; You can put lipstick on a pig. . .

The funny thing is that I can remember being offended at WVU in the 80's that I had to pay a fee that went towards the PRT (Public Rapid Transit) system that did serve a great number of students, but not me.  Why do I have to pay for something I won't use?  Given the retention and graduation rates of many colleges and universities today, "student success" is probably something many fee-payers won't use either.

Let me help the Cal State system come up with some other fees:

  • The Seat-Taker Fee.  Seats are limited in our classes.  If you want to be guaranteed one of the 30 seats, pay a $75 fee.
  • The Learning Management System Access fee.  Every time our faculty member has to read a posting through the LMS, it is time spent. Time is money.  Everytime you access the LMS, we will charge you a $1.00 fee.
  • The Trash Collection Fee.  Everytime someone leaves trash on our campus, even in our trash bins, we have to pay someone to take it away. Semester fee:  $110.
  • The Student Complaint Fee.  Processing student complaints is very time-consuming.  Each complaint requires a $76 processing fee.
  • The Enrollment Freeze Fee:  Every semester we have to put a freeze on enrollment until all tuition and fees are paid, with unpaid students dropped.  To help manage this, everyone pays a $80 freeze fee.
  • The Fees Fee:  Printing out our list of fees takes precious copy paper.  Each semester pay a $28 Fees Fee.

I am sure they will think of others. Clearly some administrators are much more creative than I am at selling a bag of no-goods.