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SGA questions mandatory fees: where is your money going?

For more information, visit: https://www.iusb.edu/bursar/tuition_and_fee_rates/2016-2017-fees

PHOTO/Indiana University South Bend’s Office of the Bursar

By: RANDALL MOSSMAN
Staff Writer
@randmoss

Do you know where your money is going? Chances are, you know of the general tuition and fees you pay each semester, but don’t know exactly how your dollars are spent.

Several members within the Student Government Association (SGA) now want the university to become more transparent with their spending of students’ money, and are calling into question the need for some fees.

“There is a definite lack of transparency on what those funds are being used for,” said SGA Chief of Staff Shail Bhagat, referring to the number of mandatory fees that are assessed to Indiana University South Bend students in addition to their tuition.

These fees include a student activity fee, technology fee and a repair and rehabilitation fee. Freshmen, sophomore and junior students also have to pay a student success programs fee, which funds the Titan Success Center. Students taking online courses also have to pay a distance education fee.

IUSB Bursar Linda Lucas, said the Office of the Bursar “has attempted to proactively address questions about the fees students question the most,” on its website.

However, Bhagat and other SGA members take issue with the vague wording of the description for the fees. Bhagat said the university’s explanations have a “lack of specificity.” He pointed to the recent anger over the change in parking fees as an example of the confusion among students.

At first, many students were angry after thinking they would be forced to pay for semesters they didn’t need. After some initial confusion, most have discovered that they can get a full refund for any semester they don’t use. Bhagat said he wants to stick flyers onto cars that fully explain the new structure for parking.

“I want to work closely with the parking committee so we can come up with an idea on how we can make students knowledgeable about their fees,” Bhagat said.

While SGA Vice President Leah Klopfenstein said some of the fees are understandable, she takes the most issue with the distance education fee.

“I don’t think the distance education fee should be in place,” said Klopfenstein. “I’ve always wondered why we pay an extra fee to take an online class. You’re not even coming to school to use the facilities, so you’re paying extra to stay home.”

Bhagat agrees and questions why the fee is charged when professors who teach the online classes are based at IUSB.

“Some of the professors who are offering online classes are at IUSB, and I do not understand the reason for charging distance education fees when professors are on the campus,” Bhagat said. “I think that this fee is wrong when you have professors at IUSB. It is not justified.”

Lucas said that the distance education fee “supports a variety of essential online activities,” some of which include a call center and website for prospective online students, marketing and recruitment, and student services for online students.

Other members of the SGA are questioning the need for the student success programs fee, which, like the distance education fee, was implemented at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. This $25 fee funds the Titan Success Center, which provides IUSB students help in talking with professors, makes plans to pay their bursar bills and gives general academic advising.

With $25 collected from every freshman, sophomore and junior, the university collects $150,000 annually with this fee. However, Klopfenstein has no problems with this fee, and complimented the Titan Success Center.

“It seems that they’re doing a really good job on campus,” she said.

Bhagat stressed that he intends to work with the university to help students better understand their fees.

“Management has great intentions for students,” Bhagat said. “It’s not a victims’ approach. It’s more like, how can we [students and the university] solve this together?”

Klopfenstein suggested that a town hall-style meeting with the SGA and students would be an excellent way to communicate to everyone exactly where their fees are going.

However, in order to effectively communicate information on fees to students, the SGA must first get the information themselves.

“It’s important for us to understand that there’s a problem,” Bhagat said. “How we can solve it comes second.”

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