Survey results presented at a Stony Brook University senate meeting relfected dissatisfaction with building matinence and administration. MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN
Stony Brook University tuition has obscure fees that even President Stanley cannot explain. The fees are said to be determined by the SUNY college system. MANJU SHIVACHARAN / STATESMAN FILE

It’s hard to complain about something you know nothing about, but I have no clue what a “college fee” is. And I’m totally clueless as to how it would differ from an Academic Excellence & Success Fee. Yet, as a full-time student, I’m paying $62.50 and $187.50 this semester for those fees, respectively.

This falls right in that category of baffling yet unsurprising to me. In an attempt to do the bare minimum of research, I followed the link on the bursar’s page claiming to have “detailed information regarding specific fees” and was greeted with a “Page not found.”

In an attempt to unearth the meaning behind these fees, I found a policy from 1992 that in general terms states that SUNY colleges will have a college fee — priced differently for full and part-time students — without explaining why. The bottom of the page states that the College Fee was first adopted in 1963. I found documents from as late as 2011 but none of them state the purpose of the College Fee. The College Fee increased from $12.50 to $62.50 for full-time students from the ’15-’16 to the ’16-’17 academic year. This is a 500 percent increase. Multiplying this price by the number of full-time students enrolled according to the Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Effectiveness, the College Fee grossed more than $1,329,812.50 in the Fall 2016 semester and $1,265,562.50 in the Spring 2017 semester. This does not include the thousands of part-time students who also pay these fees albeit with lower rates. These numbers are easily calculable minimums.

When asked about fees, President Samuel L. Stanley said, “This is the SUNY College Fee that is something that came out of SUNY, not Stony Brook per say. I don’t know all the rationale behind that. It’s a really good question about where SUNY is budgeted and where they spend their money so that’s always a good question.”

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The Academic Excellence & Success Fee was introduced to fund scholarships and hire new faculty according to a 2011 article in The Statesman. Then it was $37.50 per semester. Now it has increased by 500 percent to $187.50. Using the same enrollment numbers as above, the Academic Excellence & Success Fee cost students $3,989,437.50 and $3,796,687.50 in the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters, respectively.

There’s a lot to unpack on the Academic Excellence & Success fee page. There are pie charts followed by a vague list of what the fee is purported to finance. The fee seems to pay for tutoring, advising, expanded financial aid, and a whole lot more. But it seems like they’re all things a university should be able to do without leveraging almost $200 per full-time student. I’m all about academic excellence and success, but why are we paying $250,000 for “online academics” when we already have a technology fee?

I can understand some of the fees associated with coming to Stony Brook. I will gladly pay my technology fee, campus recreation fee and transportation fee. We can haggle about the price but these are services I believe are worth supporting. But why should I be expected to pay fees that not even the president of the university can explain?

I demand to know where my money goes. I demand transparency.

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