U charges fee to students who pay tuition in stages

November 09, 2011

Students who didn’t pay off their University of Minnesota tuition and fees in one payment by the first due date in October might have been surprised when they were automatically assessed a $35 installment fee.

The fee was set up as part of a request from student groups at the University back in the 1990s, said Tom Schmidt, an associate director in the Office of Student Finance.

Schmidt said student groups at the University were looking for different ways to help students pay the bills instead of taking care of all their tuition and fees at once. Now, students can pay the bill in three different installments so they have until late November to pay in full.

The installment fee is assessed to cover the cost of setting up the in-house processing service that allows students to pay at three different times.

Other schools use outside vendors to process students’ payment plans, and students are usually assessed a fee for that, Schmidt said. But the University uses its own resources to manage payment plans.

He said the University is “fairly generous” compared to other Big Ten universities, like the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said instead of having the installment plan, the University of Wisconsin requires students to pay their entire tuition at once.

“A lot of schools require payments prior to school starting. With ours, we don’t even bill until school starts, let alone making anything due,” Schmidt said. “In our view of how we do this, the installment was set up based on requests by student groups.”

Candi Berge, an English junior, said she thought the $35-fee was ridiculous because many small bills add up.

Though the fee might be an unexpected added expense for students, no one has really argued against it.

Terrance Paape, a graduate student and member of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, said he personally could not understand why the University would charge a fee since they allow students to pay their tuition in installments. He said it wasn’t clear why they were being charged the fee.

He said the organization hasn’t looked into the installment fee because it hasn’t heard that it’s a problem for many graduate students.

Paape added that GAPSA hasn’t taken any measures to eliminate the fee because the assembly focuses on fees that have more of an effect on the overall cost of attendance, like student service fees, the stadium fee and the technology fee.

“Both student governments really can’t control those fees,” he said. “We can just respond and tell the administration, ‘We don’t like these fees. We want you to do something about it.’”

Tad Patterson, a graduate instructor for writing studies, said he was charged the fee before because he did not pay attention to the due date.

He said he was unhappy with the charge because it was a big fee, and he was upset with himself for being careless.

This fee is small potatoes compared to the larger fees that GAPSA and other student government organizations have protested in the past.

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