SALT LAKE CITY – The cost of college keeps going up around the country, but many mandatory fees that universities in Utah are charging–fees students are required to pay–should be scrapped or funded in a different way, according to a new state audit.
Senior auditor Tyson Plastow told state lawmakers on Monday that students are being charged for Study Abroad or building maintenance programs they do not use.
Plastow said many of the mandatory fees do not meet the state’s criteria for a mandatory fee.
“Based on our limited review, mandatory fees would be more appropriate when included in either tuition or made into, kinda, optional service fees,” Plastow said.
State Auditor John Dougall said those fees at the University of Utah, for example, can add up to $600 a year.
Another issue the audit highlighted is how the money is used. Many of those fees do not pay for the programs they are intended for, a problem that was also uncovered in a 2011 audit of college mandatory fees.
“Utah higher education institutions have used student fees as a general revenue source. That same report questioned whether a building fee charged at the University of Utah should be charged to all students,” Plastow said.
The audit also found most of the fees failed the state’s “reasonable fee test”, meaning it was not reasonable to force students to pay them or designate them as mandatory fees.
“Most of these fees…could reasonably be rolled into the cost of tuition or made an optional service fee. A good example of an optional service fee would be [the] recreation fee [Weber State charges],” Plastow said.
Another area of concern the audit found was that universities were not telling students or other interested parties about Truth-In-Tuition meetings where they could voice their concerns about the fees, and they were not keeping records of many of those meetings.
In a response, the Board of Regents said they will review all mandatory fees and the original 2011 audit, as well as try different ways to communicate with students about Truth-In-Tuition meetings, like by e-mail.
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