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CDES students frustrated with high software, material costs

University of Minnesota College of Design students pay for materials like Adobe programs and modeling supplies out-of-pocket.
Rapson Hall, home of the College of Design, on the Universitys Minneapolis campus on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. 
Image by Andy Kosier

Rapson Hall, home of the College of Design, on the University’s Minneapolis campus on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. 

Students in the University of Minnesota’s College of Design are frustrated with the high costs of the software and other expenses they pay in addition to tuition to attend the college.

Some of the expenses students enrolled in the College of Design pay out-of-pocket for include Adobe, Rhinoceros and other digital visual software and modeling materials.

Students say they do not know where the money is going

Students in the college regularly use these programs and materials for assignments, projects, portfolios and resumes. They pay for these in addition to the $350 collegiate fee, course fees and tuition.

High material costs were not something fourth-year architecture student Ilana Levine anticipated when she enrolled in the college.

“I did not foresee that when I was budgeting,” Levine said.

Students do not know exactly where the money from the collegiate fee is going, Levine said. She said it seems odd to have to pay for outside materials and software in addition to tuition and the fee.

“I definitely don’t know where it’s going,” Levine said. “I’m assuming some of it is going to pay like the woodshop workers and the people in the laser cutting lab.”

The College of Design has fabrication shops where students can pay to use technology like the laser cutter for assignments and projects. Both Levine and third-year architecture student Jacob Dommer-Koch said they assume the collegiate fee goes toward the fabrication labs because they do not know where else the money would be going.

“I don’t know if they really say, but they do imply it goes towards the fabrication spaces,” Dommer-Koch said. “Then again, they charge us per minute to use the laser cutter.”

Students can buy modeling materials in the fabrication shops, such as wood, metals, plastics and foam for class projects that require physical materials.

People do not waste modeling materials, Levine said, and making students pay for them in the fabrication studio may hamper creativity in their designs. She said if the materials were free, she would feel open to trying to use new things in making her designs.

“I think that because you have to pay for your own, it creates a barrier to that exploration,” Levine said.

According to the college’s Director of Communications Amelia Narigon, the money from the collegiate fee goes toward student services operations at the College of Design, like advising and commencement.

Software prices are high and inconsistent, according to students

The College of Design requires their students to use computers with specific programs to use in certain ourses for their major.

Students have to pay for expensive software separately from tuition and the collegiate fee. Programs like Adobe are the professional standard in fields like architecture, graphic design and interior design, making them difficult to go without, fourth-year interior design student Kameela Douiyssi said.

Adobe costs $20 per month with the student discount for the first year of subscription, but then it jumps to $30 per month.

Rhinoceros, a 3D modeling software required for architecture students, costs $195 to use. Students can purchase the program for $72 through the University, but they must find the webpage where that information is listed, email the person in charge of setting up the software and purchase it with Gopher GOLD.

This access to cheaper Rhinoceros software is something the college does not make widely known, so many students end up paying the full price, Dommer-Koch said. Many professors suggest students sign up for the 90-day free trial, Dommer-Koch said.

“They kind of get away with suggesting we can get the free trial,” Dommer-Koch said. “Many people have already done it so many times and used so many different emails that the software recognizes the computer and it just won’t let you.”

Adobe and Rhinoceros are available on the computers in the College of Design computer labs as well as other program-required software, Assistant Dean of Student Services Steve Yang said in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

However, Douiyssi and other students do not see this as a satisfactory option. There is a heavy workload for most students that the computer lab hours do not accommodate, Douiyssi said.

“You can’t be there 24/7,” Douiyssi said.

Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis supplies each of their Bachelor of Architecture students with a laptop set up with Adobe programs as long as they are enrolled students. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, students can download the programs for free because the student technology fee covers the cost.

Other universities around the country vary, with students at the University of Arizona able to access Adobe Creative Cloud for free, while students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California can access it for the reduced rate of $30 per year.

“It feels like something you shouldn’t have to pay for as a College of Design student,” Douiyssi said.

College of Design looks to lower costs in the future

The College of Design is exploring alternative ways to lower costs for students, Yang said.

“One of our current initiatives is accepting donations of materials such as wood, metal, and fabrics to our fabrication shops, which students can then use at no cost,” Yang said.

The college has made some changes in the last year in what they expect students to pay for themselves, Dommer-Koch said. After a large project cost students $300-400 in materials, there was a conversation about getting that money back to the students, Dommer-Koch said.

“There was talk about, for the first time ever really, trying to reimburse students,” Dommer-Koch said.

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  • Jill
    Jun 18, 2024 at 9:10 pm

    As a parent of a CDES pre-arch student, it’s all this! My son had to pay for course fees for his arch classes, separate technology fees for the programs, purchase one of the higher laptops (technically a “gaming” laptop) to be able to run the programs they need. AND, they also have to pay for the computer programs they are required to use. Oh, and instead of looking to lower the price of the college fee, it actually INCREASED to $400 – again, this is all on top of the tuition. I hope there is a follow up investigation on this!

  • Deanna
    Nov 17, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    As an Interior Design student I feel the confusion. I feel like a broken record when I say we get charged for a lot of things we only end up using for a very small amount of time. It should be noted that those other colleges and universities mentioned in the article are already up to date in their accredited program. I feel like there is a certain apathy with the CDES department when it comes to classes and the requirements and materials needed for those classes BEFORE we attend the first weeks of classes. It should be noted that Revit currently has the best offering for students at free student use for a year…but you only learn about that by word of mouth.