SGA authors resolution demanding answers about $70 fee imposed on online classes

Since fewer than 30 percent of the classes this semester are classified as in-person, large lecture halls like Kedzie 106 remain empty for the most part. Some classes are held in these spaces, but they are few and far between. (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

In the spring, Kansas State made plans to combat COVID-19 during the fall semester, which involved the transition to a partial course log of online classes.

Over the summer, K-State implemented a $70 per credit hour fee for all online classes for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters.

Student senate and other Student Governing Association members authored a resolution taking a stance against the fee. It was sent to the administration and the Kansas Board of Regents.

The resolution requested the fee undergo a significant decrease or be removed entirely.

Blake Phillips, student senator and sophomore in management information systems, was the lead author of the resolution.

“I understand the intent of the fee, but I don’t think the implementation of it was gone about the right way,” Phillips said.

Maggie Billman, student senate speaker pro tempore and sophomore in secondary education, was also involved in the resolution.

“My problem with it is that it’s essentially a nine percent increase in students’ tuition. There was little to no student input on it and we don’t really know what it’s going for,” Billman said. “So, in my opinion, it’s unjustified and I just don’t think it was a very good idea.”

As stated in the resolution, increased fees are not generally covered by scholarships that consistently adjust to tuition, meaning that many students will have to pay for these fees out of their own pockets.

“I don’t like the cost of it because of our financial situation as a country and the world at this moment. Specifically, the students that were hit pretty hard by the pandemic and the financial effects from it,” Phillips said.

The resolution quoted Jeff Morris, vice president for communications and marketing, when he was interviewed by the Manhattan Mercury addressing the zero percent tuition increase.

“We look at the stress that our families and our economy are under right now. … It’s obvious that our students need as much help as we can give,” Morris said. “As we look at that, if we really think about where our students are and the financial pressures and stresses they are under, it’s important that we honor our land grant mission and keep things as affordable as we can.”

The resolution included a statement saying imposing this fee goes against K-State’s priority in student affordability and accessibility.

When the K-State administration announced over the summer the $70 per credit hour fee would be implemented for the next two semesters, it caught several students off guard.

“I was super frustrated because they added it and it felt like it was behind our backs, we had no clue it was going to be there. … It’s frustrating, because for a lot of students, there’s no way for them to advance in their degree path without having to pay,” Cameron Koger, SGA’s student finance director and junior majoring in marketing, said.

There has been no clear answer about what the $70 per credit hour fee money is going towards, Billman said.

“They said that it was for a boost in technologic infrastructure and to help professors learn how to use technology better to serve students who are in online classes,” Billman said. “However, there have been no reports from administrators about the outcomes of that.”

“There isn’t a whole lot of information available about what specifically this money is being spent on,” Phillips agreed.

In the resolution, SGA members requested:

  • The fee to be eliminated or, at a minimum, a substantial reduction for the 2021 spring semester.
  • A presentation from KSU administration to SGA during Student Senate by the end of the 2020 fall semester detailing what specifically the $70 per credit hour fee revenue has funded during the fall semester.
  • The Global Campus Fee become a permanent part of the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee review cycle for consistent evaluation and recommendation.

The K-State administration has yet to make a move regarding the resolution and the requests that were stated.

“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about it, not necessarily them saying they’ll do anything, but them saying ‘Thanks for taking a stance on this,’ or, ‘It’ll be reviewed.’ That’s pretty much all I’ve gotten, just generic feedback,” Billman said.