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Fee frenzy drives up college costs

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The federal government last year moved up the date when families could apply for financial aid, and thousands of Arizona students jumped at the opportunity, new data show. (Source: SalFalko/Creative Commons) The federal government last year moved up the date when families could apply for financial aid, and thousands of Arizona students jumped at the opportunity, new data show. (Source: SalFalko/Creative Commons)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

We all know college can be costly, with the average tuition and fees at a four-year private institution now adding up to just over $33K a year.

Tuition and fees. We often hear the words lumped together, but have you ever stopped to dissect what those fees are all about?

How much do they cost? What are they for? And just where is the money going?

Dana Zucker is asking those questions. She has twins going to different universities.

She doesn’t mind footing the bill to help her kids live their dreams through education. “We always knew college was going to be expensive,”  the Nebraska mom, blogger and home cook explains.

But when both her son and daughter picked schools, she concentrated on tuition, room and board. She didn’t really pay much attention to the added lines that said “fees.” When she did, she said, “We were shocked.”

Included on her son’s bill were required fees of more than $1,600. And just over $900 in fees showed up on her daughter’s bill.

“Often, a university will have a big fee, called a comprehensive fee. That really represents eight or 10 smaller fees all rolled in into one,” explains Richard Vedder, Ph.D. He runs The Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

He says while some schools lump fees together, other schools itemize. There are numerous things with names like spirit fee, incidental fee, freshman fee, and fuel recovery fee. And the list goes on.

Dr. Vedder says there’s a reason fees are becoming more common at private and public schools. “Universities are doing more and more things that cost money. Students are also enjoying fancier recreational facilities.

But, Dr. Vedder also thinks the fees are a way for universities to gain more money without raising tuition.

Zucker says, no matter what, she must pay the total bill, so she just wants transparency.

“I really don't know what that $1,500-$1,600 goes to, to be honest," Zucker says about her son’s bill

So, we decided to ask.

The institution got back to us, stating that, “Our student fees aggregate student charges for health services, technology services, and for student activities."

Dr. Vedder urges parents to be proactive with all schools. “Parents can be a little more aggressive than they are in asking admission officers and financial aid officers, 'Why am I paying this fee?'”

While most fees remain mandatory, you can often opt out of the health insurance fee, as Zucker happily found out about her daughter’s university while we were with her. “I just saved myself some money today!”

For more information on college affordability, check out The Center for College Affordability and Productivity. http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary Harper
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With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

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