By Marian Wang, ProPublica
At the University of California Santa Cruz, where tuition runs to nearly $35,000 for non-residents, students every year pay more than 30 additional fees — including a small charge for what's billed as "free" HIV testing. Students at Oklahoma State University pay a handsome sum to attend one of the state's flagship schools, but they are also responsible for covering 18 different fees, including a "life safety and security fee."
The $100 "globalization fee" at Howard University is listed — without explanation — in the school's tuition and fees brochure. A school spokeswoman said the fee "supports internationalization initiatives" such as study abroad. Students pay the fee even if they have no intention of studying abroad themselves.
Worcester State University in Massachusetts, however, might have one of the most arresting fees. Students fortunate enough to be admitted face the challenge of paying the required tuition. But before they step foot on campus, they also will be hit with a fee to, well, step foot on campus. A portion of the school's "parking/pedestrian fee" goes to the upkeep of the sidewalks on campus.
Student fees have been something of a known irritant for years, often criticized as a kind of stealth, second tuition imposed on unsuspecting families. But such fees are still on the rise on many campuses. And though their names can border on the comical — i.e., the "student success fee" — there's nothing funny about how they can add up.
"It's a way for colleges to increase the cost that may not be as apparent to as many students," said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and the founder of finaid.org and fastweb.org. "You focus in on tuition and when you get the bursar's bill, there are lots of little lines for all these fees, but because each is a relatively small amount, you may not notice it as much. You focus in on the big figure but not on these little figures that collectively add up to a lot."