ST. MARY’S CULTURE OF NICKEL-AND-DIMING

Have you ever wondered where that 10 cents of your pay-for-print money is going?  A case of Willcopy Recycled Copy & Multipurpose paper (the kind SMCM uses) is listed on Amazon.com for $40/5000 sheets. This means that every sheet of paper that St. Mary’s buys costs 0.8 cents per sheet. To be fair, the school must also buy ink, such as HP LaserJet 42A cartridges that cost $140 on Amazon and print 10,000 sheets. In total, the school pays $110/5000 sheets (half the cartridge price plus the price of paper), meaning that SMCM pays only 2.2 cents each time you print something. That leaves a comfortable profit of 7.8 cents per sheet of paper each time a student prints something for the school.  Pay-for-print is, of course, only one example of the culture of nickel and diming that St. Mary’s College promotes.

Recently there have been a great many other examples of the promulgation of this policy, some new and some old. For example, the registrar’s office recently decided to charge students for transcript requests at a cost of $7.50 ($5 per transcript, $2.50 for the “service”).  Multiple reasons were given for this new charge including, “Convenient 24/7 access, Paperless process, Secure transactions, Automatic order updates via email, Online order tracking, and the ability to order multiple transcripts for multiple recipients in one order.”

Some of these reasons are worthy; for example as a paperless process the school will not need to print out so many transcript request forms now. However the rest seem pretty weak, considering that St. Mary’s students have somehow graduated year after year without this “new and improved” (and pricey) service. There may be some solid explanation for the creation of a new cost to students; however, all fees levied against students for services must be decided in context.

Personally, I am an out-of-state student from New York. My first semester here, I paid a little more than $10,000 dollars.  Now, in my final semester, I pay $11,000 for the privilege to attend SMCM.  In-state students pay understandably pay less.  An in-state student who was a freshman in 2009 paid almost $5,500 per semester. Today the same student pays almost $5,700. In total this means that an out-of-state student like myself will pay between $80,000 and $88,000 in tuition and an in-state student will pay between $44,000 and $45,600 in tuition. This is not to mention the extra $1,100 or so that each full-time student pays as a fee per semester due to the fact that they are a full-time student (part-time students also pay a fee, although it is less). Needless to say, tuition will be raised by six percent next semester as per a decision by the Board of Trustees.

After paying a sum of money that most people would consider to be a substantial chunk of change, fees applied to students seem petty.  To my surprise (and the surprise of a number of other seniors), St. Mary’s has charged each one of us $100 to graduate.  The reaction most seniors have experienced is, “Isn’t graduation what they have been charging me all these thousands of dollars for already?”  After spending $44,000 to $88,000 to attend this prestigious school, the least one might expect is to be charged an extra $100 for the opportunity to leave.

Suspiciously, the administration has not offered any explanation to the senior class, except for a few individuals who they rely on to spread the explanation for why we must pay for something we have spent years already working (and paying) towards. Why does SMCM need an extra $40,000 to $50,000 dollars? To a graduating senior, this appears to be a final attempt to milk us for money before we, and our tuition money, leave.

Of course, there are other fees that students deal with on a daily basis such as One-card replacements and the purchasing power of flex dollars. There may be good reasons for such fees and additional costs. Understandably, the school may need the money to provide services in other areas.  That leaves the question of why the school does not include such costs in tuition fees. Of course, such fees may encourage a certain behavior in students (such as not losing one-cards), but some fees seem petty such as pay-for-print, leaving questions as to the benefit of such fees.

I am not appealing for the cessation of fees placed on the student body. I realize that these fees most likely do serve a purpose and might help pay for somebody’s paycheck.  I would, however, like more information. Why does the school need to make a profit of almost eight cents on the dollar every time a student prints a page? Why must seniors pay $100 for something that they have been working on and paying towards for the past four years? Why must students now pay money for a transcript service that has not been needed in the past (saying “every other school does this” is not an answer)?

In light of what seem to be ever-increasing tuition rates, I think the administration would be wise to explain the reasons behind student fees instead of simply charging payments to our student accounts and expecting us to pay.

 

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