Christy said in the email, “In keeping with many of our peer institutions, we determined to implement select fees for courses that use laboratory and studio equipment and materials as well as a graduation fee to cover expenses associated with degree audit reviews and diplomas.”
Christy included links to NW’s website where students could see a list of all the proposed fees but included no additional explanation for the fees.
New fees for next year include graduation, new student orientation, art studio and science lab fees, ranging $50–$100.
Laura Hurley is a junior biology health professions major, and in six semesters at NW, she’s taken more than 10 science labs.
“The fees are a bummer for science majors taking multiple labs,” Hurley said. “It can add up pretty quick, in addition to other fees we pay.”
If lab fees were in effect from the beginning of Hurley’s NW education, she would have paid approximately $1,000 in lab fees by this semester. Add this to the technology, graduation, orientation and other general fees, and Hurley pays well over $2,000 in fees by the time she receives her diploma.
Biology professor Sara Tolsma teaches many of the students who will pay lab fees.
“I worry that [the fees] may have a negative impact on retention within the biology department,” Tolsma said. “It may give students the motivation to take their science general education elsewhere.”
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While Tolsma recognizes the financial burden this will be on students, she also understands how expensive science is.
“I try to point out the costs to students,” she said. “It helps them be more responsible with equipment and thankful for the donors that provide so much of our equipment.”
Tolsma said many students are surprised by how expensive equipment is. She said some pieces cost more than most students’ cars.
Hurley explained some of the older lab equipment makes it difficult to do experiments.
“I think students will be more willing to pay if they know it’s for new equipment,” she said.
Dean of faculty Adrienne Forgette agreed.
“We want professors to have the freedom to do labs that will be the most beneficial,” Forgette said. “It’s all about the quality of the experience.”
So will the fees collected go straight to the science and art departments? Not exactly, according to Forgette.
“All the tuition and fees go into a big pot,” she said.
Chief financial officer Doug Bukelman explained the college has been covering the costs of these materials and events, and the fees will reduce some expenses.
“We’re projected to operate at a deficit this year, so we need to reduce spending,” Bukelman said.
The money put into the pot increases the overall budget and puts the college in a better position to purchase new equipment and materials and cover the costs of events like orientation and graduation. The departments requiring fees will not necessarily see an immediate upgrade in materials or equipment.
Every two to three years, the college takes an intensive look at the budget and spending. This year happened to be one of those years.
“We thoroughly study campus to make sure everything is being run efficiently,” Bukelman said.
When the budget for 2015-16 was decided, implementing additional fees was seen as a cost effective move.
Bukelman, Forgette and Tolsma all pointed out that nobody is happy when students are required to pay more, but at this time, they believe it is a decision has the best interest of students and the college in mind.