Penalty fees teach costly lesson

I lose things a lot.

Call it carelessness. Call it accidental. Call it bad luck. Either way, one minute I have my belongings and the next I don't. It's an inconvenient and stressful habit of mine, and here at UB, it's a costly one.

In my three years as a student here, I've lost five UB cards and have paid a total of $100 in replacement fees.

I understand the idea of penalty fees as a means of fostering responsibility and preventing future lost items, but the charge hinders students more than it helps them. In high school, I had to pay a dollar each time I retrieved my calculator, a jacket or gym sneakers from the lost and found. Even for a single dollar I used to complain relentlessly.

Today I would accept that charge without a grumble, but I find $20 far too expensive for a mere UB Card replacement. Five dollars is enough of a punishment for students who misplace their cards. Any fee larger than that can leave a hole in the average college student's meager wallet.

Believe me – it adds up.

The same holds true for room key replacements. As a sophomore, I lost the key to my dorm. After retracing my steps at least five times, I dejectedly trudged over to the Ellicott-area offices to resolve the problem. I left the building more miserable than before after learning that my student account was charged a whopping $80 to cover the cost of changing my lock.

I now live in the Hadley Village Apartments where the Rules and Regulations handbook states that charges for lock changes vary from complex to complex. I have not lost my keys since I've lived here, and I hope to never find out how much my student account would be charged in such a case.

Give me a week, though, and I'll probably have an answer.

These penalty fees apply not only to lost items, but also to failure to comply with the move-in and move-out guidelines in residence halls.

Just before my sophomore year, my family and I arrived to Buffalo the day before I was scheduled to move in to my dorm. In order to avoid the busy hassle we faced the previous year, my father insisted that we begin moving in that day. I saw no problem with it because many transfer students were moving in that day.

Apparently, there was a problem after I learned my student account was charged $50 for early move-in.

Why such a high charge? Where does this money go? I didn't know, but I was annoyed that I had to foot the bill because I decided to move in only a day early.

That was not my last $50 charge from the residence halls. At the close of my junior year, I left UB on the last possible day I was allowed to move out of the dorms – but 20 minutes late.

I was bewildered when the RA told me that I was charged $50 for a late move-out. My dad explained that it took us a little longer to carry the heavy equipment, such as the TV and fridge, and we would appreciate it if they gave me some leeway.

The RA responded, "We gave you 15 minutes of leeway until 5:15." So, five extra minutes costs $50? It was hard for me to accept that.

In total, I've had to pay UB $280 in penalty charges and it makes a difference. When I consider what else that money could have gone to, it bothers me that UB charges so much for things as trivial as UB Card replacements and not moving in or out of dorms at the right time.

I can't change the past, but if these fees are lowered in the future, it would save me – and thousands of other students – an additional financial burden. Paying for college is difficult enough, so why make it harder?