Addressing UWRF's mandatory graduation fee
December 15, 2022
Over the last twenty years, tuition fees at American universities have increased at a dramatic rate. Data from the College Board shows that tuition fees at public four-year universities doubled between 2000 and 2020, going from an average of $5,170 to an average of $10,440. In the 2022 to 2023 academic year alone, tuition fees at four-year universities rose 1.8 percent.
As such, students have more than enough to worry about financially without having to deal with unnecessary fees as well. Segregated fees are nothing new at UW-River Falls, and many programs and facilities on campus, including the Student Voice, would not be possible without them. The issue, however, lies with other fees, such as UWRF’s graduation fee.
This academic year, the graduation fee is $60. Last academic year, it was $56, which means the fee has increased 7 percent in one year.
The UW-River Falls Application for Graduation website says that “this fee supports the degree audit software, diploma, mailing of diploma, diploma cover, honors cords, and costs associated with commencement ceremonies (e.g., chairs, programs, etc.).” Unfortunately, the fee doesn’t cover expenses such as a graduation cap or gown. And, even if a student should decline to attend a graduation ceremony, they still have to pay the full fee.
The graduation fee is not included in segregated fees; it is an external fee that must be paid when a student submits their graduation application in eSIS. “The Graduation Fee is charged to all students at the time of application for graduation,” UWRF’s graduation website says.
Thus, the fee is paid manually, not automatically, which raises the question: if a student didn’t pay this fee, for whatever reason, would they be prevented from graduating, even if they otherwise would have been able to?
The graduation fee seems to be just another form of financial insecurity tacked onto students. 60 dollars doesn’t seem like a substantial amount of money, and definitely isn’t when compared with tuition fees, but, if students had used their last resources to pay for tuition, or to pay for unexpected fees such as car repairs or medical bills, it is possible they would not be able to pay this last fee. The fee seems predatory, a means to extract a little more money from students. After all, they can hardly refuse.
Kelly Browning, the Registrar at UW-River Falls, presented at the Finance Committee for the Registrar’s Non-Allocable Segregated Fee, and proposed the idea of the graduation fee appearing when a student hits 90 credits rather than when they apply for graduation. This would ensure that students have enough time to pay the fee, rather than having to address it last-minute.
The Degree Audit Report (DAR) is still included in the graduation fee, though there was a discussion of separating it during the 84th Session Student Senate. The DAR allocation of the segregated fee is $24, and the graduation allocation is $36 per application.
However, all students at UW-River Falls use the DAR, not frequently, but at least once a semester in preparation to sign up for classes. As such, the DAR fees should be spread out among all students and included in their segregated fees, not paid for exclusively by those who are graduating.
This would cut the graduation fee to $36, which could also be added to segregated fees and paid for automatically. And perhaps, if a student does not decide to attend a graduation ceremony, this $36 should be waived entirely.
According to SGA’s meeting minutes, Emma Erb, SGA’s Finance Director will send out a survey for gauging interest in splitting the DAR fee from the graduation fee sometime in the future. With this and other changes to the graduation fee, the money necessary for ceremonies and other related expenses can be gathered in a more efficient and less predatory way.