Editorial: Rising everyday campus fees may create barrier to entry for low-income students

As tuition rates increase for all students and parking fees rise, among other costs, students continue to feel burdened.

Daily Editorial Board

In May, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler announced a bill that raised in-state tuition at the University by 2 percent. Implemented this fall, in-state students saw an increase of about $258, excluding student fees. Our campus also saw a recent increase in parking fees, with almost every parking lot around campus increasing by at least one dollar. While this may not seem like a huge inconvenience to most, those little costs add up and can prevent minority students from accessing our campus community. 

Campus parking is a headache for everyone, but especially those with a low or limited income. The University’s parking passes run for a couple hundred dollars and daily parking rates can range from $5 to $12 a day. Some students may choose between paying for parking or attending class. Little fees like these are not only affecting students’ finances, but also their ability to receive an education. 

You could argue the extra funding coming in from these fees contributes to restoring and updating campus buildings — amping up public safety plans and creating opportunities for fun events and spaces for students. But if we have students working multiple jobs to cover their finances, taking full credit loads and trying to maintain extracurricular activities or internships to boost their resume, they are not able to really take advantage of those benefits. The school promotes these experiences for all, which are funded by our tuition dollars and student service fees. In reality, not all students are able to participate because up-front costs may be creating another barrier to entry, especially for low-income students.

If the University wants to promote and encourage diversity on campus, then they need to enact policies that make it more financially feasible for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to attend. In spring 2018, there were 30,588 white identified students attending the University. That accounts for over 63 percent of the student body. We cannot continue to say that we are a diverse student body when the statistical data does not completely back up the claim. 

A great way to increase our University’s diversity is to reduce everyday fees that students are subjected to. Students of racial minority groups typically face a higher chance of experiencing poverty in Minnesota. Some students may already be intimidated by the University’s price tag, and that is excluding the hidden student services fees and other day-to-day expenses. 

We encourage the University to examine the costs it imposes on students, as well as how it affects the academic and financial experience of students. While the fight for affordable higher education is ongoing at the federal and state levels, colleges and universities should be doing all they can to ensure they accommodate for all.