Cutting fees won't save students money

Most mandatory fees provide well-liked services at a bargain rate for students

As a former member of student government, I often heard about how we should eliminate funding for events on campus, athletics and even counseling from a wide variety of students. 

Each of these may have its merits, but the fact is eliminating these services will not save you as much money as you think it will.

See counterpointStudents, not student government, should have the final say on the fees they pay.

If you want to talk about saving students money, you must first look at the whole picture through a number called the "cost of attendance." The cost of attendance covers tuition, fees, books, travel and housing which make up the true cost of attending ASU full time.

The estimated cost of attendance for an in-state student ranges from $19,361 for someone living at home to $29,487 for someone from my native Downtown Phoenix Campus.

Of the cost of attendance, $9,834 is tuition, which is substantially less than the $16,000 it is estimated to educate a student, and $958 is mandatory fees (this does not include program- or class-specific fees, such as iCourse fees or Barrett, the Honors College fees).

So great, eliminate those little frills and we’ll save folks $958 a year, which can be a good chunk of change, right?

Well, those “little frills” actually make up a vast majority of anything you see outside of a classroom.

Do you not like the Sun Devil Fitness Center? Well, eliminating that particularly popular service would save you $50.

Don’t like the new Student Pavilion or the old Memorial Union? Well let’s just say we didn’t spend the money on those and five other student buildings, and that will net you $150 a year.

But perhaps my favorite is the Student Programming Fee which now costs $60 per year. Don’t like small things? Well, eliminating this fee would wipe out events on campus, intramural sports, bike repairs, club sports such as ASU lacrosse and more.

In a twist of irony, our knee-jerk reaction to eliminate these fees also backfires in terms of actually controlling costs in the future.

Vice President of Services for the Undergraduate Student Government Downtown Jade Yeban said that the student governments keep track on a line-by-line basis of how the money from the student programming fee is spent.

Finding a similar breakdown for the university budget funded by the $9,834 in tuition on the other hand is difficult if not impossible.

And similarly, though the Student Athletics Fee has been divisive in the four years I’ve been here, the fee allows us to cap the amount of student money going into Sun Devil Athletics at $150 per year unlike the previous situation where it was pulled straight from tuition without any limits.

Times can still be tough for a lot of our students, and even with a moderate tuition and high financial aid model, ASU still loses students to financial difficulties.

This should not be taken lightly, and students by no means should stop demanding more from their university.

However, the place to start is by demanding greater details from ASU’s budget and debating what costs we feel can truly be trimmed.

We won’t agree on everything, and it is a difficult job that not even our professional peers in city halls, state legislatures and Congress enjoy or do well. But if you want to save students any significant amount of money, it has to be done.

Reach the columnist at or follow @RyanAndrewBoyd on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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