Opinions

Aman ’20: It’s time to scrap the $70 re-admission fee

By
Opinions Editor
Thursday, March 21, 2019

I first discovered that students who take a leave of absence are required to pay a $70 re-admission fee after reading an op-ed submitted by Soyoon Kim ‘19 and Addy Schuetz ‘19.5, the leavetaking coordinators at the Curricular Resource Center. The idea that we charge our students a fee to return to Brown immediately left a sour taste in my mouth. This fee not only financially burdens returning leave-takers, but also sends the message that leave-takers are no longer part of the Brown community.

First, leave-takers must pay this fee, regardless of their financial situation. In contrast, the University has a robust waiver program for first-year and transfer applicant fees. For example, the application fee is automatically waived for high schoolers applying to Brown who are enrolled in, or eligible for, the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. Transfer applicants who have taken the SAT as well as students who can get a letter from a “dean, advisor or financial aid officer at their home institution certifying that the application fee constitutes a financial hardship” can get a waiver from the College Board.  If the University can outline means for financial accessibility to prospective students, why can they not do the same for leave-takers who are already members of our community?

This issue is compounded by the fact that while leave-takers do not pay tuition during their leave, they also do not receive any financial aid. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but students who rely on aid for room and board will lose this critical assistance during a trying period in their life. Furthermore, on-campus jobs classified as “student employment” are only available to “active students,” meaning leave-takers may lose their primary source of income .

I understand the reasoning behind requiring applicants to shoulder the cost of reviewing their application. An application fee discourages students from sending out an excessive number of applications (some may argue that application fees do not serve this purpose, as some students have significantly more resources than others — this is an important but separate conversation). But neither of these justifications apply to leave-takers. If a leave-taker desires to transfer to another university, they will pay that university’s application fee, but no leave-taker should be forced to pay a fee to return home. Requiring a re-admission fee sends the message that leave-takers are no longer members of the Brown community.

Each year, about 200 students take a leave of absence, meaning the annual revenue that returning leave-takers could generate is approximately $14,000 — a tiny sum compared to the University’s $1.1 billion operating budget. Furthermore, Brown’s website on leavetaking does not provide any justification for the existence of the fee — it is simply an unquestioned requirement. The financial burden on individuals, along with the symbolic costs of this fee, clearly outweighs its benefits.

Finally, no other Ivy League University appears to require a re-admission fee. If our peer institutions have the compassion to welcome their leave-takers back without shaking them down, so should we.

There are already efforts underway to eliminate the fee, or at least create a need-based waiver. The CRC website currently states, “There is currently no waiver available for this fee. However, if this fee is a hardship or concern, please contact leavetakers@gmail.com to help petition for a waiver in the future.” More recently, according to a Herald article, Schuetz and Kim have “sent an official proposal (over January break) to the Dean of the College who, along with a working group on financial need, is in the process of reviewing it.”

While creating a need-based waiver is a step in the right direction, this fee shouldn’t exist in the first place. It’s high time Brown eliminates this harmful and insulting fee.

 

Rebecca Aman ’20 can be reached rebecca_aman@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.