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EDITORIAL: $225 student services fee was a debacle. Don't play games with our money.


The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees gathers for committee meetings Sept. 18 in the President's Conference Room. 

We recently published a story that finally shed some light on the university's misleading $225-per-semester student services fee. 

The fee was approved by the board of trustees June 2018, instead of a tuition rate increase. Our story highlighted how the university spends those dollars, how "student services" are defined and how students feel after paying it and never receiving a clear explanation of what the fee money funds. 

In short, students told us they felt ripped off. 

One student even described feeling like a "cash cow" for the university. Every student that was interviewed had no clear understanding of what "student services" were being supported. It turns out it wasn't difficult to find out how the money was being used. 

After Central Michigan Life asked, we eventually got some answers. 

But, that's the thing. We had to ask what our money was being used for at a public university. Why did the university feel no obligation to properly inform its students about the fee? Why were students the ones responsible for providing other students with that basic information? 

Withholding this kind of information, whether intentional or not, is unacceptable. 

More than a year later, we are still waiting for a statement, crafted by University Communications, to tell us where our own money is going. 

The implementation of this fee should have gone a lot smoother. We hope administrators learn from this public relations failure. 

The board of trustees and the president of the university, George Ross, should have been able to explain why the fee was necessary and what the money was being used for before trustees voted to approve it. Students were left without an explanation, but were charged the fee three months later just as a new president arrived. 

Before, and just after, instituting the fee, it was promoted by administrators as a source of funding for actual student services such as additional counseling and academic advising. However, we now know the fee is used for funding basic personnel and operating costs.   

The fee does pay for some additional counseling and academic advising staff. But, it also pays for a bunch of other stuff – including faculty salaries – that tuition is typically used to fund.  

Students deserve transparency from their university. By introducing a new fee and not clearly explaining to students what they are being charged for, CMU is failing us at the most basic level.

Many of us are willingly going into student loan debt to attend this university, so not clearly and truthfully explaining where our money is going is just dishonest and disappointing. 

Students are well aware of the financial and enrollment crises that a directional university in the Midwest is facing. We don't like it, but we understand that you need more money from us. Why muddy the issue? 

The meeting this fee was approved was heralded as a great achievement for students because the undergraduate tuition rate didn't increase. Did you think we wouldn't notice or understand that the fee took money from us in a different way? In fact, the student services fee is actually equal to the largest tuition rate increase since the 2012-13 school year. Based on a 15 credit hour schedule, the $225 fee is equal to a $15 increase per credit hour, making it the highest cost of attendance increase since 2012-2013. The difference is, we will be paying this fee every semester.

Just be honest with us. 

By misleading students and failing to provide information beforehand, CMU has damaged the trust between it and its students. 

With homecoming approaching, we urge the administration to consider that the students of today are the alumni of tomorrow. 

After graduation, we know to expect that phone call asking for a donation. 

Some will look back on the tone that was set during their time in school and ask themselves: Why should I support CMU? Do I trust them with my money?

You might not like the answer we give you.