Students brace for fee jump

ASU students hang out in the Student Activities Center between final exams. Student fees, which will increase $100 in the fall, pay for the use of the Student Activities Center.

One of the biggest lessons that Augusta State University freshman Erika James learned this year was that education comes at a price.

Beginning in the fall, tuition will rise 3 percent and fees will go up by $100 because of a statewide increase approved by the Georgia Board of Regents on April 19.

"I'm mad I have to pay even more because I make good grades, and I go to a school that shouldn't even be that expensive," James said.

The increase means $51 more per semester in tuition for a full-time, in-state student, totaling $1,716. Out of seven fees that ASU students pay, however, only the institutional fee will increase -- from $150 to $250.

The institutional fee is a charge to students created by the Board of Regents a few years ago to help compensate for the state's education debt, according to Therese Rosier, the university's vice president for business operations.

"It's a way to offset money that the state is not providing to higher education institutions, and the hope was for this fee to eventually decrease and go away," Rosier said.

Instead of being phased out statewide, the institution fee has increased because of dwindling money for state education. The increase also comes at a time when ASU will introduce a $115 fee per semester to fund a wellness center at the west campus housing area near Damascus Road.

The fee was approved by the Student Government Association after it received 362 signatures supporting it, Rosier said.

Despite the changes, ASU still ranks as one of the least expensive schools in the state.

Larger universities, such as the University of Georgia, are being hit harder, with full-time students set to pay $3,641 per semester in tuition and $1,095 in fees this fall.

"It could be a lot worse," Rosier said. "I'm sure no one is happy when you have to pay more. I'm not happy when I open my Comcast bill and it's more. Unfortunately, that's the state of the economy right now."

The trouble is that the tuition and fee increases come on top of cuts made to the state's HOPE Scholarship program in February.

The scholarship used to pay full tuition, books and fees for students with at least a 3.0 GPA, but now it will cover only 90 percent of tuition and provide no funding for books or fees.

"With losing HOPE, it's really frustrating because now it's like, OK, half the money I make this summer working will go toward books," said James, a middle-grade education major.

To prepare students for the increases, said Dr. Joyce Jones, the dean of students, the school sent e-mails and a letter to students outlining the changes.

With fall charges due by the end of July, Joyce said, students are concerned about how to pay for books and extra charges they are used to having covered by HOPE.

"I will say I've heard more and more from parents and students that they don't want to take out loans because by the end of the four to six years they could get out of school owing a lot of money," Joyce said.

Despite the changes, some students say they understand that with the changing economy, people seeking an education have to expect more charges.

Fees are in place to provide services to students, which many take advantage of, said Almard Smith, a psychology and criminal justice junior.

"They're basically meeting students' wants and needs with the fees, and at the same time you're getting a good education," Smith said. "Look at the times we're in. Everything has to go up."

A closer look at ASU fees

What do you get for the fees? A breakdown of the $670 in fees paid each semester by ASU students beginning this fall:

INSTITUTIONAL: $250, state-mandated charge to compensate for state education debt

TRANSPORTATION: $35, covers campus shuttle service and provides free access to city buses for students

ATHLETIC: $130, covers anything to do with athletics from sports drinks to sports fields. Also covers the use of intramural fields, team uniforms, sports teams traveling, sports advertising, lodging, etc.

TECHNOLOGY: $45, covers any kind of technology on campus. Includes the 24-hour computer labs, overhead projectors, scanners, printers, copiers, computers, etc.

STUDENT CENTER: $45, voted on by students around 2002 as a 30-year fee commitment. It is a fee to fund the construction of the student center on campus.

STUDENT SERVICES: $50, applies to all 68 ASU clubs and organizations. Also covers any on-campus activities such as grill-outs, art shows, etc.

WEST CAMPUS: $115, contributes to the construction of a student life/wellness center at the new student housing complex near Damascus Road.