Eliminating course fees aims to please, falls short

By Editorial Board

After three years of discussion, Columbia has proposed a major change that the SGA and many members of the student body have been calling for—the elimination of course fees. But entirely eliminating course fees isn’t that simple, and if the proposal is passed by the board of trustees, the college will be left with a $5 million hole in its budget—a multimillion-dollar hole that comes on the heels of the administration’s declaration of major losses in long-term investments and immediate expenditure cuts.

If the proposal is passed, course fees will be eliminated beginning in fall 2009.

Although the SGA and many students have called for course fee elimination, entirely doing away with course fees is not the best choice for the college or

its students.

College course fees are common at most higher learning institutions. However, other colleges use these fees to cover necessary course materials. At Columbia, course fees may go, in part, to necessary materials, but often these fees are used for other departmental expenses.

Instead of eliminating course fees altogether, the college needs to reevaluate and revamp the use of this money by directing it toward what it is supposedly meant for. By doing away with these fees, students who enroll in classes that require fewer supplies will be left to absorb the cost of more expensive classes. It is likely that yet another increase in Columbia’s already exorbitant tuition will help cover the $5 million budget loss. But Columbia certainly isn’t equally distributing any profits, so why should the college be allowed to equally redistribute the burden of debt?

Course fees need to stay, but like many other things at Columbia, they need to be more effectively managed. Classes that require the use of expensive equipment or facilities should be assigned a course fee reflective of those costs. Likewise, classes that require nothing but paper and staples should not be assigned excessive fees that ultimately end up back in the hands of the department, to be used for other


Fees need to be restricted to cover the materials required in class and nothing more. And just like the college’s overall budget, there needs to be more transparency about how these funds are being used. When a course fee is assigned, students should receive a line item breakdown of what the fee will cover.

As Columbia continues to grow, administrators continue to work toward making it a college that parallels other successful institutions. Columbia officials should take a cue from other institutions by looking at the way they assign and use course fees instead of jumping into a plan that is going to create a $5 million deficit.

Columbia’s idea to create change is a good one, but how about creating change that is well thought-out and makes sense?