Student fees help correct underfunding by state

Prior to the beginning of each new semester, Northern Kentucky University’s Bursar office mails billing packets to all students. Included in the packets is a “Quick Reference for Questions” sheet, which generally describes student fees.

All Northern Kentucky University students must pay these fees as well as tuition. While tuition is capped at 12 credit hours,which means no extra tuition is charged for 13 or more credit hours, the mandatory fees are not capped

These fees include the Student Incidental Fee of $13 per credit hour for all enrolled students, the Support of Learning Surcharge, a $2 per credit hour fee assessed to all undergraduate and graduate students and the $20 per credit hour Library and Learning fee applied only to law students.

It may sound like a great deal of money for each student to pay out until the purpose and use of the fees is explained.

“They basically fund a number of different areas such as student government and programs,” said Robert A. Neumann, director of bursar operations. “Some have been used for various technical enhancements throughout the campus such as Internet access.”

Gerald E. Hunter, associate vice president for financial planning and institutional research, explained, “NKU is different among area schools in that it is underfunded. For every $1 in tuition an NKU student pays, the state matches with 97 cents. It’s around $1.50 for all the other schools.”

Hunter said the reason for this discrepancy is NKU, a fairly new school, grew when the state didn’t have much money for growth. Because there is no flexibility to generate additional revenue, NKU is forced to use supplemental fees.

Students end up paying more costs then they should, said Katie Herschede, president of the Student Government Association.

“We are the most private public university. Students kick in more than the state,” said Herschede. “We see our fees in action everyday and benefit from them directly. They are targeted at very specific things.”

She said one of the projects the fees are used for is the funding of the new student union reserve account. Fees also assist the athletic program by helping to improve equipment and facilities and provide scholarships to bring in athletes. Hunter added that the fees used to support athletic programs do not fully support them but are a supplement. Other money is raised through private donations. Both Herschede and Hunter said that it was imperative to support NKU’s athletic programs for several reasons including building name recognition for the school.

Hunter also touched on the technology fee by saying that it generates about $1 million a year, which is what it costs to equip all of the campus computer labs, teaching labs, Smart classrooms, student computers and anything technologically related.

Mark G. Shanley, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, explained the funds are used for many student services like the Activities Programming Board, student clubs and organizations, SGA, campus recreation and the University Center.

“The Support of Learning Surcharge helps with perishable supplies, such as books for the library, materials for labs and photocopied handouts for courses,” he said. Shanley also said the fees’ revenue helped support the Invest in Success Initiative by providing a significant increase in the number of academic advisors.

They also assisted with funding for tutors in the mathematics labs, initiatives for retention of students such as the “NKU Rocks” program and first year programs such as University 101.