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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Big Cuts Mean Big Fees

Rising fees have led to an empty wallet epedemic
Rising fees have led to an empty wallet epedemic

Students may have noticed prices slowly creeping up across campus. In addition to limited free printing and rising vending machine costs, the fees associated with attending UMass Boston are also on the rise. It’s a trend that Alex Kulenovic, Student Trustee for the UMass Board of Trustees has been fighting during his two years as trustee.

“Fees have come to the point where they act as a back door tuition,” he said. “What you may notice on your bill is that fees may add up to about three times what your actual tuition is. We have to get fees under control.”

But the solution is not as simple as lobbying the university administration to lower fees for students. Rising student fees are linked to a larger problem of a decline in state funding for higher education, Kulenovic said.

“As public schools, we get part of our funding directly from the state, and the rest comes from student tuition and student fees,” he said. “The funding for higher education and for UMass in particular has declined. What basically happens as a result, every time there’s a budget cut at the state, the board of trustees and the state are not allowed to raise tuition, because that’s set by the board of education. What they do have control over is student fees.”

Colleges, after all, function like businesses. When money gets cut from one source it has to be made up for somewhere else.

“Things like cutting Student Centers and not allowing free printing anymore, all of these are basically money saving steps that should not be taking place,” Kulenovic said. “Free printing in most places is considered to be just a part of your tuition. You pay tuition so you’re able to do basic things like print your homework. So, our fees are increasing and the things our fees are supposed to be covering are decreasing.”

Kulenovic is not just speaking about the injustices he sees; he is actively working for improvements.

“I want to decrease the pressures that are causing these things in the first place. We [state university students and staff] just formed a new lobbying coalition called PHENOM [Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts],” he said. “This is an effort to realize that there are millions of people in the higher education system who all have a stake in this and they’re all being harmed from this disinvestment from the state government. Separately we can be ignored; together with one voice we actually have a chance to make changes.”

In addition to students and faculty, Kulenovic says that anyone interested, “who believes in public education in this state,” is welcome to attend PHENOM’s strategy meeting on Oct. 25 at UMass Boston and check out the organization’s website, www.phenomonline.org, for more information.

Whether students get involved in PHENOM or not, Kulenovic encourages them to get engaged and speak out about the issues that affect them.