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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Letter to the editor: Increased fees will burden graduate students

Editor’s note: This letter remains in the condition in which it was sent.   

Last week, the University made a proposal that could affect graduate students in a big way. They suggested a substantial increase in the fees that graduate students pay every year. The total increase: $192, according to documentation we received from UB. Sounds like a lot, right? The Campus Life fee would rise by $7.50, the Health fee by $36, the Technology fee by $31, the Transportation fee by $17.50, and the Academic Excellence and Success Fee by $100. If approved, these changes would bring the total amount graduate students pay each year to $2,475.

Now, this increase in fees would not directly affect fully funded PhD students, whose broad-based fees are funded. However, it would also affect students earning Master’s degrees and partially-funded PhD students. While $96 per semester may not sound like an enormous increase, even a small increase can make a big difference to students who are working hard to make ends meet. Poor or working-class students may need to take on extra loans or credit card debt to pay for these fees.

Some fees support necessary and valuable services. For example, the Academic Excellence and Success fee funds the Center for Excellence in Writing (CEW). The CEW provides crucial support and employment to graduate students. However, the vast majority of the Academic Excellence and Success Fee—over 80%—is spent on campus renovations and software, which we believe do not have a direct impact on graduate students’ educational outcomes. As the cost of higher education continues to rise, it does not make sense to increase graduate student fees to pay for luxuries like new cafés or offices, which are paid for partially by the Academic Excellence and Success fee. This fee increases the financial burden of graduate students, many of whom are already struggling with high costs. But it doesn’t give them comparable benefits.

As the University takes away services from students—including the pharmacy and a UB-offered health insurance plan—in order to cut costs, they continue to raise fees. Although the pharmacy and health insurance may not have been directly supported by fees, some students have expressed frustration that they are being asked to pay more, overall, for fewer overall services.

As the University considers raising fees, we urge administrators to carefully consider whether these fee increases are absolutely necessary. If the fee increases do not directly improve teaching, learning, or research outcomes, they ought to be reconsidered. 

Isaac Kolding, President, Graduate Student Association

Sarah Macdougall, Vice-President, Graduate Student Association

Melanie March, Treasurer, Graduate Student Association



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