Dollars and dimes: Cost comparison in college fees and surcharges

(Photo Illustration by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

In addition to tuition, each college at Kansas State, except for the College of Education, has additional surcharge fees or “college fees.”

Hannah Heatherman, co-chair of the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee, speaker of the student senate and senior in finance, said while surcharge fees are used for a specific purpose, other fees can be allocated with different intentions, like for advising and technology.

Only the colleges of engineering and business administration hold surcharge fees.

“Basically, the cost of hiring faculty in those colleges is more expensive, generally speaking, than it is for other colleges — also, to retain those faculty,” Heatherman said.

The surcharge fee for the College of Engineering is $80 per credit hour. For the College of Business, it’s $65.

Kevin Gwinner, dean of the College of Business Administration, inherited a plan when he first became dean to increase the $20 per credit hour surcharge fee by $45 over three years.

“We wanted to lower our class sizes, and we were really successful at doing that,” Gwinner said. “The other thing we wanted to do was to hire some new people and to launch electives that we just didn’t have the bandwidth to offer at the time.”

Interim dean of the College of Engineering Gary Clark said via email the college’s $80 per hour surcharge fee is for faculty support.

“The original fee was established to help with funding for engineering faculty salaries and retention,” Clark said. “Engineering faculty salaries were, and many still are, low compared to peers at similar institutions.”

The College of Engineering also has a $19 per credit hour fee for computers, printers, projection systems, lab equipment and equipment support. The fee began in fiscal year 1992 and increased to its current charge in fiscal year 2009.

Although the process changed over the years, today colleges go through an extensive fee approval process. The college’s dean typically gives the proposal.

“They’ll talk about their expenses or about some new plan that they’re trying to implement — some new service or something that needs cash,” Jim Badders, assistant director of the Division of Financial Services, said. “They’ll talk about why it’s important for the university, why it’s helpful to the students.”

The process starts with Provost Charles Taber, who said via email the primary criteria for approval is how the fee will serve some student need.

“I evaluate college fee proposals and if I think they meet a compelling student need, I forward them to the TFSC,” Taber said. “The TFSC goes through a stringent process to determine whether students in the given college support the fee and then to decide whether to support the fee. Administration decides whether to take a fee forward to [the Kansas Board of Regents] after receiving the TFSC recommendation. Student support is important to administration and to KBOR in making the final decision on a fee.”


While the main aspects TFSC looks at are long-term effects and how it will help students, Heatherman said other involved groups look at where K-State ranks in terms of faculty compensation and turnover rate.

“We really do see it [as] best practice and hope that the department head of the dean in that specific college goes out and kind of vets it among some of their student groups,” Jansen Penny, TFSC co-chair, student body president and senior in industrial engineering, said.

Other per-credit-hour college fees include a $20 charge in the College of Agriculture, a $16.70 charge in the College of Arts and Sciences, a $20 charge in the College of Health and Human Sciences and a $55 per credit hour charge in the College of Architecture, Planning and Design. The only college that doesn’t have this type of fee is the College of Education.

There are many reasons why Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, does not implement this type of fee — student debt, as teachers typically have low salaries, and the fact that the college does not have the same type of lab equipment as other colleges since students go out and get experience at schools.

“Collectively, as a group of deans, student debt is a big issue to us,” Mercer said. “I think the colleges that have chosen the fee route have done it with great thoughtfulness, and they’ve gone that direction when they felt like they didn’t have another choice, not because their first choice was ‘let’s put more on students.’

“Might I ever be in that position? I can’t say ‘never,'” Mercer continued. “To this point, I’ve been able to manage things without going that route. My back has not been against the wall that I think my counterparts have felt.”

I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm the News Editor for the Collegian and host of the Collegian Kultivate podcast! I spent two years at Johnson County Community College, and I am now a senior in Public Relations at K-State. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at