Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Nobody likes hidden fees, as is painstakingly obvious to anyone who has watched television long enough to see advertisements for cell phone service providers, banks, car insurance companies or airlines. Brown, thankfully, does not add extra, undisclosed charges to stated tuition and fees. However, it often fails to make clear precisely what that money is buying. The University should take a more transparent approach when dealing with students and families who want to know what tuition and other fees actually cover.

Most students understand that the administration must make hard financial decisions, especially during the current recession. However, the more secrecy there is about policies, the more students tend to distrust University officials. This applies not only to major University decisions, but also to less complex areas of University policy.

For instance, students who choose to live off campus pay a "non-resident fee" of $600 per year. In an interview with the editorial page board, Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential and dining services, said that this fee covers transportation, security, the Office of Student Life and the administrative costs of running the Student Activities Office. Bova also said that for students living on campus, a portion of the so-called "room fee" goes towards these services. The "student activities fee," which is billed separately, goes to the Undergraduate Finance Board for distribution to student groups.

Most would acknowledge that these services are necessary and would not complain about being asked to pay for them. However, the room fee is poorly named, as it supports things that do not obviously pertain to housing or fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Residential Life. Yet, the billing statements issued by the Bursar's Office bundle these expenses together with housing costs and list them collectively as room fees.

We are not suggesting that the administration is cheating students in any way. In fact, we applaud the administration for restraining tuition increases despite a rough economy that has led to a number of other sacrifices. This year tuition increased 3 percent, while the overall undergraduate charge increased 2.9 percent. This increase represented the lowest yearly percentage increase since the 1960s. We understand that the University is expensive to run, and indeed most students expect to pay for services and administrative costs. However, it is unnecessary and inappropriate to be vague about what our money actually funds.

With regards to housing, University officials will not disclose how much of the regular on-campus housing fee goes towards other services. To avoid future misunderstandings and complaints, the University should start making available a more detailed breakdown of fees. By giving students a better idea of how money is being spent, administrators also increase the likelihood that students will be able to offer constructive, sensible cost-cutting suggestions.

In most cases, money is being spent for services that are necessary and completely legitimate. However, many students' complaints originate from simple misunderstandings that could easily be avoided if the University made its policies — particularly financial policies — more transparent.  In this difficult economy, money is a sensitive subject, especially for students and families who are struggling to finance an education. We hope the University takes the relatively minor steps that will help alleviate concerns and build trust between students and administrators. 

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to editorials (at)



Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.