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COGS voices displeasure with fees

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | DECEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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In a 19-page paper released Tuesday, the University of Iowa Campaign to Organize Graduate Students laid out its opposition to rising student fees at the university.

The paper, “Tuition By Another Name: Student Fees Lack Transparency and Contribute to the Student Debt Crisis,” lays out COGS officials’ issues with the appropriateness, or lack thereof, of what fee revenues are spent on and questions whether they were within the original scope of mandatory fees.

Mandatory fees for the 2014-15 school year are expected to be $1,426 for undergraduates and $1,480 for graduates, more than double from a decade ago.

The Board of Regents’ universities made the transition by the 2004-05 school year.

“[Then-UI President Mary Sue] Coleman argued that by starting fees, that would leave more money for education, and then fees would go to student-related services and programs,” said COGS chief campus steward Melissa Zimdars. “The argument was that it would be more transparent … what’s happened now is that it’s not transparent or accountable at all, and there’s very little input into the amount of fees that we pay.”

Regent Communications Director Sheila Koppin wrote in an email she would begin working on a response today.

The Daily Iowan was unable to speak with regent officials Tuesday evening.

In 1999, several regents and UI Student Government members expressed concern over heavily rising fees once the split from tuition was made.

The COGS paper describes the recent tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students by the state Board of Regents as “disingenuous.”

“The cost of education is still increasing, but they can claim politically that tuition is frozen, because most people don’t know about the additional fees they have to pay,” Zimdars said.

UI Vice President for Strategic Communication Joe Brennan declined to comment because the regents decide tuition and fee costs, not the university.

The regents approved a $25 fee increase on undergraduate students at the UI and a $45 increase on graduate students for the next school year.

COGS members believe graduate student-fees should be reimbursed, and they proposed the idea in their 2015-17 contract proposal. The regents’ counterproposal did not include reimbursement, to the displeasure of COGS.

Negotiations are ongoing.

The publication noted 22 universities that reimburse graduate-studentd fees, either partially or wholly.

“Despite what other institutions do about fee waivers or fee payments, remission of certain types, according to information I have available to me we are about the middle-of-the-pack in terms of how much students pay for fees,” said Graduate College Dean John Keller.

He said only two Big Ten universities — Michigan State University and Penn State University — do not have graduate-student fees.

Keller also noted a technology fee for graduate students is waived.

COGS officials requested information about where fees are allocated and have taken issue with what has been provided so far, calling it “extremely vague.”


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