Students mandated to pay for services they won’t access

UB changes comprehensive fee waiver policy, students create online petition to voice grievances

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UB is charging around 16,000 students up to $1,000 in fees for services they won’t have access to this fall. 

After UB announced the hybrid reopening plan for fall semester, many students wondered if their tuition and fees would be reduced because they wouldn’t have access to the same services and facilities they would have in years’ past. But tuition remains the same and the comprehensive fee went up by 2.03%. Students taking a full online course load and those staying off-campus are being charged fees for athletics, recreation, transportation, student activity, campus life and health services. 

Many students are upset they have to pay for services they will not be using. 

Jordan Hanry, a junior public health major, doesn’t understand why students are being charged a fee for athletics, when the Mid-American Conference announced in early August that it would be cancelling fall sports.

“I don’t understand why we’re paying athletic fees when the season is canceled, and there are no student activities on campus,” Hanry said. “I don’t understand why there’s a student activity fee. It’s like they’re just searching for money.”

Hanry lost her summer job that helped pay her tuition and fees, which pushed her to take out extra loans and increased her student debt. 

“I know other people who haven’t been working, some people didn’t even qualify for pandemic assistance, like they should be more lenient with fees knowing that people don’t have the means right now,” Hanry said. “It’s just unsympathetic to the situation.”

Before the pandemic, students could submit a comprehensive fee waiver to get certain fees waived–– the technology, transcript and college fee are always mandatory–– if they were taking only online classes and not staying on-campus. But UB modified its policy this fall and most students are ineligible. According to the new policy, only students enrolled in  an “exclusively online degree  program” are eligible for the waiver. 

In a statement UB Senior Director of Issues Management and Stakeholder Communication Kate McKenna said the school needs the fees to provide services — in-person or not.

“UB relies on these fees to sustain services that are available to [students], regardless of how [their] instruction is delivered –– in-person, remote or hybrid,” McKenna said. 

Many students taking only remote classes this semester are criticizing UB for charging them fees for services they won’t be using and changing the fee waiver policy. Students took to social media to express their concerns and created a petition as well. 

Brenna Gellen, a senior pharmacy major, started a petition calling on SUNY leadership to waive the comprehensive fee for all fourth-year pharmacy students, who are off-campus and taking part in clinical rotations.

Anna Augostini, a senior pharmacy major, said students had been told that the waiver would apply throughout the course of their program. She criticized the university for retracting the policy and for not informing them about the change before loans were distributed. 

“Nothing in our curriculum has changed. We are not enrolled in academic courses. It is wrong for the school to do this to us after loans have been disbursed, making it particularly difficult for me to pay nearly $2,000 dollars out of pocket especially during a pandemic,” Augostini wrote. 

In a Reddit post, a user called out UB for changing the comprehensive fee waiver policy.

“UB doesn’t care about us, they just want our money,” the user wrote. “[I] can’t believe they changed the comprehensive fee waiver requirement.” Some users agreed with the post, while others said that most universities are doing the same and there is no point in getting frustrated. 

Students say these policies are unfair and inconsiderate as the pandemic left many students and their families unemployed and economically vulnerable. 

Joseph Santini, a senior pharmacy major, said in a comment under the petition that the waiver was granted to all fourth-year students prior to the pandemic. He said they have to pay around “$2000” in fees per person and with “100” students in the pharmacy program UB would be receiving around “$200,000” from students who are completely off-campus and not enrolled in an academic program. 

“For many students (not just pharmacy) this amount is substantial. Taking our upcoming board exams alone costs a minimum of $1500,” Santini said. “It makes no sense and comes off in poor taste that during one of the most trying economic times, students are being punished with no recourse.” 

Ella Couchman, a sophomore media study major, said her comprehensive fee waiver application got denied and that it’s “unfair” for the university to change the policy in these circumstances because it is breaking with precedent. 

“Especially in these times and I think it’s hard for everyone and for students especially you don’t know their personal circumstances and it’s a lot of money,” said Couchman. “I feel like they should take care of their students and understand where everyone is coming from.” 

Vindhya Burugupalli is the engagement editor and can be reached at vindhya.burugupalli@ubspectrum.com or on Twitter @vindhyab_.

VINDHYA BURUGUPALLI


Vindhya Burugupalli is the engagement editor for The Spectrum. She loves traveling and documenting her experiences through mp4s and jpegs. In her free time, she can be found exploring cute coffee shops and food spots.