By: Abby Nelson, Staff Writer
College is not cheap. The cost of attending a public four-year university, like USM, averages around $10,000 and $25,000 a year according to Sarah Goldy-Brown and Student Debt Relief. There are several factors that go into these prices, such as the number of credit hours being earned, if the student is an in-state resident or not, and any financial aid they receive. Along with those factors, students pay fees that cover or reduce the cost of services provided by the school. The amount a student pays for fees can vary. USM policy states that these fees are mandatory for each student to pay, however, not every student will use all the services that these fees fund.
At USM there are various fees that are included in the yearly bill on top of the tuition, which can be found on the USM website under student financial services. A few of these fees include a unified fee, student activity fee, student health fee, and a transportation fee. These are fees applied to an undergraduate students bill, however there are different fees for certain programs and graduate students. They are all listed on the tuition and fees page where a brief description reads what services each cover.
The transportation fee, for instance, is for students on the Portland/Gorham campuses only. It pays for parking privileges, emergency phones, parking lot and sidewalk maintenance, snow removal and other transportation-related projects, like the busing between campuses. Students at the LAC have a separate fee that they pay for similar services. This fee’s price varies on the amount of credit hours being taken by a student and ranges from $55 to $110, according to the tuition and fees page on the USM website. Each semester, every student will pay this fee, whether they use these services or not.
Another fee students have to pay but may not directly use all of its services is the student health fee. This is a broad fee that covers several different services and events offered by the health and counseling services here at USM. Lisa Belanger, the director of health services at USM explained some examples of health and counseling services that include up to 12 counseling visits, food clinics, on-campus activities and programming like panel presenters, and services at the ROCC. Although several students won’t use these exact services, they might be affected indirectly by the events or outreach programs hosted by the health and counseling services. Therefore, instead of students paying for only the services they use, all students pay a general fee to support the program according to Belanger.
These are only two examples of the several fees that USM undergraduate students pay each year. Other schools in the state of Maine have similar fees to USM, like a basic unified fee that funds random expenses not covered by tuition or a student health fee. The prices for these fees vary depending on the school as well. USM charges both an undergraduate in-state commuter student and an undergraduate out-of-state student living on campus taking 12 credit hours each the same amount of $582 in fees. An undergraduate student taking 12 credit hours at the University of Maine in Orono, for example, pays $1,219 in fees each year according to the University of Maine financial page.
Every school is unique in its provision of services to its students. Where USM has two campuses it needs to charge a transportation fee whereas a smaller school may not. USM provides numerous health and counseling services and therefore may charge a higher fee than other schools, if those schools charge any at all. Whether students will directly benefit from the services these fees fund or not, it is important for students to understand what these fees are, what their money is going towards at the end of the day, and why they matter.