Hidden class fees hit low income students hardest

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Gabriel Hernandez/Staff

Cartoon by Gabriel Hernandez

“From near to far, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!”Dr. Seuss
At our beloved college hidden fees are also everywhere.

Some Southwestern College classes have been surprising students with hidden class fees, like a scorpion in a sneaker. Students are too often required to pay for subscriptions to websites like MathXL, engineering software like Solidworks or unforeseen art supplies.

Websites may charge students as much to $60 for a six-month subscription. MathXL is ubiquitous in math classes. Biology, political science and language classes also often have hidden subscription requirements.

While many students have become savvy about where to find less expensive textbooks, there are no discounts for website subscriptions. Whereas books can be shared between students or kept on reserve at the campus library by merciful professors, web subscriptions cannot be evaded.

This leaves students with only two options: Cough up the money or drop the class.

SWC is populated with low income students who strategically plan finances to get through each semester. About three of every four students receive FAFSA, which does not always arrive in time to pay expenses at the beginning of the semester. Waiting weeks for financial assistance to come through puts many students at risk. Skipping out on textbooks, quizzes, tests and homework can do serious damage to a student’s academic standing. Same with subscription websites and other required tools with a price tag.

Students are usually informed during registration if the class will require a lab fee. They are not told about expensive materials and subscriptions.

Classes are already hard enough to get into. Textbooks and expenses are prohibitive. Students should not be strong armed into having to spend precious food or rent money for these hidden fees.

This fall Southwestern is embarking on a new emphasis to get students through to certification or transfer in two years. Hidden fees slow students down.

Besides that, the websites are of dubious value.

Professors and instructors justify subscriptions to these websites to provide interactive lessons, round the clock help access, tools and provide paperless assignments and assessments. They have largely failed, however to prove that these websites are actually help to improve their students academic performance.

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