University at Buffalo

Comprehensive Fee Proposal


This analysis puts forward the scope and definition of the framework proposed for implementation of a comprehensive fee that would consolidate all current existing university required fees.  Specific consideration has been given to issues and concerns of University departments and student/parent customers.

Comprehensive Fee Definition

Current Billing System


The current billing system, which includes assessments for a variety of fees, evolved as a response to the need to generate additional income in different administrative units.  Each fee, with its unique set of rules and procedures, is administered by these various units.  A significant manual effort is put forth by these departments in posting the numerous transactions to the student accounts system.  An individual account may possibly require four different numerous transactions to the student accounts system.  An individual account may possibly require four different entries for the waivers, adjustments, or refunds of these fees.  The variety of fees charged is often confusing to students and parents who attempt to understand their purpose and use.  With the annual increases in major college expenses such as tuition, room, and board, our customers often express they feel being "nickel and dimedí by the small increases that occur with these existing separate fees.  The proposed comprehensive fee is designed to streamline the collection and billing process as well as present this assessment to our customers in a more appropriate format.


Proposed Comprehensive Fee System


The following are the four current fees (with definition) which are proposed to consolidate into one Comprehensive Fee.  Course and/or department specific fees are not being considered for inclusion in the Comprehensive Fee:

        Transportation Fee:Provides support for campus parking lots and bus systems.

        College Fee: Provides support for the general fund of SUNY.

        Health Fee: Provides support for student health care and counseling.

        Technology Fee: Provides support for technology needs in computing and information access, library
                                     automation, remote networks, public computer upgrades and automation of services.

Aspects of the Proposed Comprehensive Fee
Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages                    Disadvantages

Other Institutionís Policies


Following is a list of how other SUNY and a few AAU schools collect and process similar charges.  A wide range of approaches is evident with consolidation of charges increasing in popularity.

SUNY Schools

FREDONIA:    Student Services/Programs Fee

           Waivers     Currently do not waive any fees and is publicized as such in catalog; describes the components
                              of the fee on back of bill but does not provide the dollar breakdown.

          Revenue      At the end of the third week of classes, Accounting divides the
     Distribution       money to the departments based on the amount billed.

      Experience      Received many phone calls from graduate students and a few
                               letters. Work eliminated has been incredible. The phone calls eliminated arguing about each of the fees
                               have dropped considerably.

UNIVERSITY OF ALBANY: Comprehensive Services Fee

          Waivers      Waiver process is placed within one office for centralizedadministration.

         Revenue       Replaced previous revenue categories with a brand new
    Distribution       comprehensive service fee category.

     Experience       Received less complaints about the look of the bill after consolidating fees. New fee did not
                               appear to be a problem from the studentsí viewpoint.

CORTLAND:    Program Service Charge

          Waivers       There is one waiver process that is handled by the Vice President for Student Affairs. The wording in the
                               brochure states that there is no waiver but if students have questions, please contact the VP for Student
                               Affairs. Fee includes technology, health, activity and athletic.

      Distribution      Departments receive strictly what was collected, not assessed.

       Experience     "So far response has been fine - students/parents ask what it is and werespond that it is just
                                a combination of fees, not something new. We have, however, changed some rules regarding
                                who has to pay the charge and refund criteria so we may hear more negative feedback yet."

CANTON:      Comprehensive College Fee

           Waivers       Students must first pay the fee; then they may contact the VP for Academic Affairs by letter to request a
                                 waiver of the technology fee only. Canton has been sending the combined bill for two years now and
                                 have had very few requests for fee waivers.
      Distribution       Departments receive what was collected.

       Experience      "The results were a great reduction in the number of questions about the individual fees and if
                                 they were required or could they be eliminated. The Alumni office was overwhelmed by the i
                                 increase in revenue since virtually no one had crossed off the Alumni Fee and previously it was
                                 almost automatic. All experience with this single fee on the face of the bill has been favorable."

AAU Schools



The consolidated fee covers a multitude of services (student health, student unions, city bus pass, and support to student organizations).  Charged as a single per credit fee, which is distributed to the department/group according to a percentage.  The components of the fee are made available to students who inquire.  Increases are handled just like tuition increases - they are determined annually and announced at the same time as tuition rates.

            Waivers     They currently do not have a standardized waiver process; they have not waived any fees except for the
                                three students involved in a pending court case (students objected to the use of the fee for student groups
                                that they had the constitutional right to deny funding). They plan to offer a waiver of the more "volatile"
                               portion of the fees for students who desire it.
       Distribution     Revenue is distributed based on what is collected.

        Experience     Had three students who successfully sued the University saying their constitutional rights were
                                being violated by being forced tosupport groups with which they do not fundamentally agree
                                (a womenís group and an environmental group). As a result, the university is now developing a method for
                                students to waive the more controversial fees.


                Tuition and fees are assessed all as one charge. A breakdown of the fee components is in the courseschedule.

            Waivers     The registrar's office handles the requests for waivers; since the inception of the combined fees, the
                                number of requests for appeals has dropped dramatically. Components of the fee are mandatory health
                                fees and a computer fee.

           Revenue     The registrar tracks the funds assessed and the assessed amount is given to departments
       Distribution     regardless of the collections. This is based on a system limitation they want to change.

Fee Administration and Waiver Processing

With the consolidation of the current four fees into one, a major benefit is now the opportunity to have all customer inquiries and waivers processed in one central location. With the existing four fees mainly being administered under the jurisdiction of departments in the Division of Student Affairs, it is proposed that the management of the Comprehensive Fee be placed within that division. The processing and determination of student waiver requests would be handled by that division, with an office located within Student Accounts.
Implementation Issues

                    Issues regarding revenue distribution must be addressed to determine if the distribution of funds to departments
                    supported will remain as currently exists or if a different form of distribution needs to be implemented.

The Comprehensive Fee structure must be designed to provide flexibility in providing for exceptional circumstances that will alter these charges. GSEU contracts that allow canceling transportation fee charges and the waiver processing of this new fee are examples of these exceptions.

Publicity of this change is critical for a smooth transition, especially for continuing students who will face initial sticker shock at the large value associated with this fee.

Technical issues must be addressed. How waivers are processed and interfaced with student accounts billing are examples of technical considerations for implementation.

                    New University initiatives that request special billing considerations would need to be carefully reviewed.

                    Departments supported by these fees and responsible for the waivers will need to coordinate development of a
                    single waiver criteria for the Comprehensive Fee.