Saturday, July 12, 2014

"A Billion Here, A Billion There, And Pretty Soon You're Talking About Real Money"

I can't stand being nickel-and-dimed.  When I book a flight, it's entirely reasonable to expect that my suitcase is included in the cost of the ticket; sadly, only a couple airlines apply that reasoning anymore.  I don't like going to a hotel and getting hit with a "resort fee"--and sometimes they're not even resorts!

I hope grocery stores don't start getting into this game, charging "mandatory" shopping cart usage fees and parking fees.

When a student goes to college, their tuition and boarding fees should be absolute.  I understand buying books, but books don't even have to be bought at the school itself.  But what I'll call "university level" expenses should be fixed, known, and transparent.

But universities today are hitting students with the equivalent of baggage fees and resort fees, and these fees, like their cousins in the travel industry, are not only wrong, they're significant:
To solve this problem, UCLA is introducing a $4 student fee to pay for better concerts. That illuminates a budgeting issue in higher education -- and indeed among human beings more generally.

That $4 is not a large fee. Even the poorest student can probably afford it. On the other hand, collectively, UCLA’s student fees are significant: more than $3,500, or about a quarter of the mandatory cost of attending UCLA for a year.

Those fees are made up of many items, each trivial individually. Only collectively do they become a major source of costs for students and their families and potentially a barrier to college access for students who don’t have an extra $3,500 lying around.
That's an additional $3500/yr, above and beyond the posted "sticker price". 

Here's a fun activity:  choose a school, find what its annual fees are that are not included in tuition, and then determine each component of those fees--in other words, where that money is supposed to go.  In many cases you'll be shocked--if you can get the information.


maxutils said...

I agree ... it's nice to know the total cost up front, and hidden fees are annoying. They are borderline fraudulent, because firms that hide fees can advertise lower prices than those who don't ... but until we legislate to prevent that, it's going to happen. In the case of UCLA, though ... I'm happy to pay $4 to get better concerts. I'm not happy about the fact that the observed cost, tuition and room and board, have inexplicably skyrocketed and continue to do so ...

Darren said...

YOU might be willing to pay the $4 because you'd attend the concerts, but *I* certainly wouldn't feel like subsidizing you.

I don't think we have to legislate the accumulation of fees, I have faith the market will do it. I'm still awaiting the travel app (Kayak? Priceline? Expedia? Something new?) to aggregate these costs and take the dominant position in the travel information industry.

maxutils said...

I know you're unwilling to fund it, because you don't believe in the benefits of publicly funded entertainment ... and I will moderate my position, because I have no idea what that $4 does ... in hindsight, I don't understand how that would get you better concerts. I do know that 4 of my best non-academic activities at UCD were getting to see Milton Friedman and William F Buckley team up to do a school voucher debate (spoiler alert: they were for it, and won), Henry Kissinger speak, Hunter S. Thompson speak, and Stevie Ray Vaughn play. Essential? Of course not. But I'm glad they happened. Then again, my tuition was less than $1500/yr.

For travel? try In my experience, I believe they notify you of all fees ... although, taking stored luggage is a choice. Better to know the policy of the airline, and I don't really see a huge problem with them charging more if you're bringing a huge bag ... it's at leas an understandable cost.

Jerry Doctor said...

Back in the seventies I was with a friend of mine when she purchased a new Chevy Blazer. This, of course, was long before the craze for SUV's. The price seemed like a bargain... until you found out that certain features were options. Just guessing but I think most people would have expected seats (other than the driver's) to be included. And would you like a top on your Blazer?

Ellen K said...

Many fees go to support programs that will never be used by regular students. In one case, UNT wanted to put a fee onto every semester hour to help fund a new stadium. It was voted down by general student population, but the administration brought it back for a vote in the summer when the council only had a minimal quorum. Pushed by the Greek system, the fees went through. This has happened at big schools like University of Texas and small ones. The myth is that all these programs are self sustaining. They are not.