College students are accustomed to shelling out thousands of dollars every semester to pay for their education, but many students are not completely aware of everything they are paying for.
With nearly 15 sections on the bill, many of which have several sub-sections, there is definitely some room for confusion.
“It’s sometimes a problem for freshman, who have nothing to compare it to, and for transfers who did not have the banner system at their previous schools,” said Ramapo College Bursar Arthur Chill.
Some of the sections on the bill are fairly easy to understand, which includes classes, meal plans, housing and more.
Others are not as straightforward, including non-tuition related fees and tuition-related fees. The items on the bill are broken down further on the bursar page of the College’s website, but even some of the descriptions are hard to grasp.
The names alone do not give enough information for students to confidently say where their money is going.
“Tuition and tuition-related fees sound really similar,” said Michelle Santucci, freshman.
Tuition-related fees include a student center fee, student activity fee, a media center and technology fee, and a facilities fee, among others.
Descriptions for these costs are generally well-understood. Others, like a “general service fee,” which the bursar’s website defines as “revenue that supports services not funded by the State, such as health services,” and the “experiential learning fee,” which is “revenue dedicated to assuring the continuing quality, scope and diversity of Ramapo College’s educational curriculum and academic services provided to students in support of the instructional programs,” are a bit trickier.
“The general service fee goes towards so many different things,” said Chill. “But in regards to the health services example, part of it is use of the health center.”
However some of the fees, like the experiential learning fee, are not established by the Bursar’s Office.
“We don’t establish all of these items,” Chill added. “The Board of Trustees does.”
As far as non-tuition related fees are concerned, many are fairly obvious to students.
The capital improvement fee is easy to identify, especially this year with construction on campus to the G-wing, second floor of the A-wing and the nursing building.
Other non-tuition related fees are not as clear, including health insurance fees.
“For medical insurance, we collect the money and send it to capital health,” said Chill. “We send lots of emails reminding students to waive the fee if they don’t want to get charged.”
The health insurance fee is one of a few charges that does not apply to everyone, but is still automatically placed on the bill.
“That got me my first year,” said Gabe Makar, sophomore. “I think it should be automatically put on the bill, but they should tell you before.”
Emily Hutton, a freshman, agreed. “I feel like they should ask you first. I didn’t know until after I got the bill.”
Because of the confusion, particularly among first-year students every year with the health insurance fee, potential changes might be in the works.
“For next year, the Board of Trustees might decide if it should automatically be put on the bill or not,” Chill said.
Another automatic payment on the bill is the parking fee.
“The only student type who is not automatically charged for parking is a freshman student living on campus,” said Chill.
Otherwise, it gets put on the bill and you need to request to have it taken off if you don’t have a car on campus.
“You have to get that taken off your bill?” said Hutton. “I guess that’s how they might get you.”
Ultimately, it’s not that the college wants to “get” the students, but that students, especially freshmen and transfers, might not know what all the parts of the bill entail.
“I think what would be very helpful is feedback into what specific parts of the bill students have trouble understanding,” Chill said. “Then we can correct it.”