UConn hopes to drop student fees for certain majors, course materials

Thousands of UConn students would save from $10 to $700 a semester under a proposal to ban academic fees for certain majors and materials fees for some classes.

“When a student pays tuition at UConn, that tuition should not be differentiated by their course of study.” said Scott Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer.

The idea that paying tuition should give equal access to whatever major a student selects was the consensus of a committee appointed by UConn President Susan Herbst in December, 2016 to review student fees.

The committee, which issued their report recently, said there is “no solid ‘rhyme or reason’ to the fact that certain programs have major fees attached to them and others do not.”

“[C]reating certain ‘high-cost’ majors might discourage some students from selecting their preferred major because they are either unable or unwilling to pay the associated fees,” the report said.

Irma Valverde, president of UConn’s undergraduates, said she thinks the proposal is “honestly in the best interests of students. The idea behind it is to make sure students are saving money. If students want to major in something, they don't have to worry about the additional costs.:

Herbst plans to recommend that the Board of Trustees adopt the plan at their Feb. 26 meeting.

The fees for majors range from $10 for business to $700 for landscape architecture with majors such as music at $500 and nursing at $250 calling in between.

More than 3,260 students pay major fees,which total $329,171.

In addition, nearly 11,000 students pay materials fees for 170 courses with more than 1,000 sections. Those fees range from $10 to $95 per course and generate $434,628 in revenue.

The committee said the materials fees “are so small and generate so little revenue … that charging them creates the unwanted perception that the university is “nickel and diming” students by charging what amounts to a nuisance fee.”

The committee has proposed banning both the major fees and the class materials fees.

The committee said that revenue lost through the elimination of majors should be funded through the university as long as those programs continue to face unusual costs.

The revenue lost on academic fees materials will be offset by the savings in the cost of administering the program, the committee said, noting that it now takes the equivalent of two full-time employees to oversee the program.

Any needed academic materials can be funded through the university tuition-supported central budget, the report said.

The committee also recommended removing the student health services fee — at $580 — from the general university fee to improve clarity and transparency. Currently Storrs-based undergraduates pay a general university fee of $1,914, which includes the health fee, as well fees for athletics, $434, career development, $112 and other campus programs.

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