PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island College students are balking at fees they’re being asked to pay for services they won’t be able to use because they have been urged to stay off campus and learn remotely.
In recent weeks, thousands of students received their bills for the fall semester at RIC and the itemized list of fees included charges for transportation, athletics, the recreation center, dining center, student union, library and student activity. In all, the bills include $600 in fees for services some students say they will never use.
“I don’t know why I’m being charged a dining fee when I can’t even go to dine at RIC,” said Brooke Gannon, a junior at the school. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Gannon said she reached out to the school and was told the fees are governed by the state and there was little that could be done.
John Taraborelli, a spokesperson for the college, said in an email the school has adjusted some of the fees, including reducing the athletic fee by 75%, and eliminating the “fine arts fee.”
“The goal with these fee adjustments is to be sensitive to the economic difficulties facing many of our students, but also to balance this by maintaining critical support operations that will benefit them,” Taraborelli said.
Taraborelli said the reductions were approved by the R.I. Council on Postsecondary Education. (The official approval is expected at a meeting Wednesday night, but are already reflected in the bills that went out to students, he said.)
At the nearby Community College of Rhode Island, spokesperson Amy Kempe said school officials eliminated parking and transportation fees, along with a campus services fee, in light of the push to remote learning.
Kempe said state colleges and universities don’t need to seek permission from the Council on Postsecondary Education in order to eliminate a fee, but only if an institution wants to alter the cost.
RIC students Alexis Desorcy and Vasiliki Platsidakis started two an online petitions to pressure the college to eliminate the miscellaneous fees during the pandemic. Platsidakis said compounding the problem is the financial aid package students receive is based on the 2018 tax year.
“As the unemployment rate in the United States has skyrocketed, many of ourselves and family members have lost their jobs,” Platsidakis said in the petition. “Our entire lives have been turned upside down and yet our financial need is still being determined by figures no longer representative of that need.”
“This is robbery and we are forced to pay for these things we don’t even have access to,” Desorcy wrote.
Tuition and fees at RIC for the spring 2020 semester totaled $4,789, according to Taraborelli. Tuition was scheduled to rise by $341 for the fall semester, but Taraborelli points out the overall cost is rising $262 — $5,051 in all – because of a $79 reduction in fees.
Gannon – an education major with a concentration in math – said most of her classmates don’t often scrutinize the laundry list of fees, and just cut a check when the bill comes in.
“Students just see that the tuition going up they don’t know necessarily what the breakdown is,” Gannon said. “I know a lot of my friends are not happy with all the fees.”
At the University of Rhode Island, full-time undergraduate students are getting charged $1,041 in fees, the majority lumped into a category labeled “Student Services Fee.” That’s up from $988 the previous semester.
David Lavallee, a university spokesperson, said the increase in fees was not to offset the cost of dealing with the school’s response to the coronavirus.
“URI’s tuition and fees for the 2020/2021 academic year were proposed last fall and approved by the Board of Education at its November 13, 2019 meeting,” Lavallee said in an email. “There are no proposed changes to tuition and fees since these were approved and sent to families in the spring.”
Like many schools, URI offered a prorated refund for their housing and dinging plans to students who were sent home for the remainder of the spring semester when the pandemic struck the region.
“The university decided to provide a 25% refund to each student who lived in URI housing and had a dining plan,” Lavallee said. “The total refund amount was $7.9 million.”
This story has been updated to include a second online petition