Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


TUITION: Pitching Pennies

If you call FAU and get put on hold, this is the message you’ll hear: “FAU is one of the fastest growing universities in the nation and one of America’s 100 best college buys.”

That message is old.

FAU hasn’t been on U.S. News’ annual list of top 100 college best buys in more than three years. In fact, FAU’s tuition has become the highest in Florida – in terms of public universities.

The Florida Legislature sets tuition for the state’s 10 public universities. The 10 schools have the same matriculation fee (the base tuition fee of $55.67 per credit hour), the same building fee ($2.32), the same financial aid fee ($2.78 to fund school-sponsored scholarships), and the same capital improvement fee ($2.44 set aside for future construction).

But where those similarities end, big differences begin.

There are other fees – a health fee, A&S fee (activity and service), and an athletic fee – that each university sets, and then get approval by the legislature. This is where FAU students bear the burden of being the most expensive.

Though some FAU officials didn’t think that students bore that burden, when the UP first asked them.

Ken Jessel, FAU’s vice-president of financial affairs, said, “I think they’re [the fees] higher than some, but I don’t think they are the highest.”

However, FAU’s fees are the highest. Adding all the fees together for all the universities shows FAU being a mere 99 cents more than the University of North Florida and $8 more than the state’s average.

“Maybe 99 cents per credit difference? That would transfer for most students to $12 per semester,” Jessel said.

FAU President Anthony Catanese said he “thought we were about the same as other universities.”

“See, we’re about the same as North Florida, FIU,” Catanese said while looking at the UP’s chart. “I think it’s a matter of cents. When you look at them, they’re all about the same,” Catanese said.

“I don’t think anyone’s complaining about $18 a year, are they?”

‘This isn’t Harvard’

Yes, students are upset. Though, higher fees aren’t the only things currently bothering FAU students.

A proposed five-percent increase of the matriculation fee by the Florida Board of Education has some students preparing for battle. It led SG Boca Raton Senator Christina Cernansky to start a petition campaign. She posted flyers around campus saying, “The petition is out and it’s the only way to preserve your wallet.”

“I don’t mind paying for a good education – but this is not Harvard. And if I’m going to be paying a lot, I expect a lot,” Cernansky said.

Student Body President Burak Kuntay echoes Cernansky’s comments.

“If the University deserves it, we should pay. I’m definitely sure that Harvard students pay more than us – but we’re not Harvard.

“The tuition and fees in the last five years have really jumped. Increases are going to happen, but this fast? This is too quick,” Kuntay said. “My fight, my concern, and my big problem as a student is that everything shouldn’t be increased so quickly.

“When I came to FAU, I was told that it was told what a good deal it was. Now, suddenly, we’re not the best buy. I think we’re still the best, but not in terms of cash.”

Kuntay started FAU in 1998, when the matriculation fee was only $46.99 per credit hour ($704.85 a semester for the student taking 15 hours.) Almost four years later, the base tuition fee is $55.67 (equaling $835.05 for 15 credit hours). Do the math and that’s a difference of $260.40 a year.

Fee-wise, Kuntay has also seen the increases. Kuntay became student-body president after the $3 increase for the A&S fee was approved.

The $3 increase is not only something he opposes but also something he’s looking to undo. Kuntay and SG are starting to survey students to see what they prefer. He wants to ask students, “What do you want to see more student events or $20 in your pocket a semester?”

“We are not the rulers, we are the servants of the students – we have to ask them what they want. That’s our job,” Kuntay added.

Kuntay and Cernansky say that they’re not done fighting to keep Florida from raising the matriculation fee again.

“We’re such a new University, and we’re also talking about seven campuses. I think we should slow down with the increases,” Kuntay said.

Pay more, get more?

Catanese said there’s good reason why FAU students pay more.

“You get more at FAU. We include more things than other state universities do in the fees. For example if you want to go to athletic contests, at other schools, you have to buy your tickets,” said Catanese. “And of course, students get all tickets free here — for football, basketball, baseball, it’s free.”

FAU’s athletic fee is $11.75 per credit hour. At UF, students pay $1.90 per credit hour.

Why’s this fee so much higher?

“We started a football program. So, everyone understands that,” Catanese said. “But the important point is the students got 10,000 tickets. Frankly, I wish the students would take advantage of what they’re paying for. I’d love to see 10,000 students at every game.

If students went to all seven home games, with the tickets worth $15 apiece, most students would get a higher value than they pay, Catanese said.

Though Cernansky thinks that another option for the athletics fee would be more feasible: “I’d rather buy my tickets, if that would mean a lower athletic fee. I don’t care that much for football.”

Catanese and Jessel cited another reason besides not getting tickets why UF students don’t have to pay as much: outside support from boosters.

“For one thing, their athletic program, like football, baseball, and basketball get have been around and get a lot of booster support that we just don’t have. I think if you look at the athletic fees at schools like FAU, FIU, that we’re not too far off,” Jessel said.

Catanese, who was a dean at UF before coming to FAU 11 years ago, said that his former employer “makes more than $25 million off of their football program a year.”

While FAU’s health fee is 27-percent over the state’s average, the A&S fee is the second highest in the state. At $10 per credit hour, this money goes to Student Government, however, last year, the fee was $7 per credit hour. The A&S fees fund Student Government’s $5 million budget. SG pays for activities such as homecoming, Freaker’s Ball, and services such as this newspaper, OwlTV, and the Night Owls escort service.

For this fee, Catanese doesn’t think that students are in a position to blame administration. “That’s the students’ own money. Student activity fees are proposals brought to us by students. It’s the students that recommend that,” he said. “We can lower that, if the students want to cut down. Though, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of waste going on to me.”

Tuition’s state in Florida

The nation’s degrading economy is affecting Florida’s education system – from Kindergarten to graduate level courses. Already in a deficit, Sept. 11’s terrorist attacks led to another series of cuts from state universities’ budgets.

Earlier this year, when the state cut money from the university system, Governor Jeb Bush and the state legislature allowed tuition increases to partially counter the cuts. Part of this semester’s 7.5-percent increase came from that.

Though, even with the added expenses, Florida’s universities students pay a lot less. Florida has the forty-eighth lowest tuition in the nation, with only Nevada and Arizona having lower rates, according to College Board reports.

But President Catanese doesn’t think of Florida’s low tuition as a good thing.

“That’s why classes are crowded and you can’t get the classes you want when you want them.

“We don’t support higher education in Florida. I think it’s hurting people’s access to classes, teachers. Anyone, who’s been here a couple of years, has noticed the classes are getting bigger. But not like other schools,” Catanese said. “If you go to other schools it’s worse. Maybe we have 30-35 [students in some courses] but some other schools have 100-200. We don’t do that.”

The UP asked Catanese why he thought Florida’s tuition escalates more than the national average.

“It’s because we don’t pay enough money for higher education in Florida.

“I think the real problem is that it’s easy to get petitions signed, saying we don’t want to pay anymore money. It’s easy. Give me one of those petitions and I’ll go to the shopping center and get 1,000 signatures. No one wants to pay more money,” Catanese said.

Before deciding how much is a reasonable amount to pay, Catanese thinks students should ask themselves some questions.

“I think what everyone has to ask themselves, has to with the quality of their education. What quality of your education do you want? Do you want smaller classes? Better faculty, more faculty, do you want better facilities?

“I think those are the questions we should be asking. If the answer is no, ‘No, I don’t want anymore classes, I don’t mind having 100 students in the class,’ then okay, let’s keep a low tuition.

“I’m a public servant. I do what the public wants,” added Catanese. “But I don’t think [decreasing the quality] is what most students really want.”

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