The California State University (CSU) “student university fees” will now be referred to as “tuition” after the California State University Board of Trustees approved the change in terminology last week.
Unlike many other universities and colleges, money paid to the universities for teaching expenses were considered fees instead of tuition.
According to a press release from the Chancellor’s Office, fees are services not related to instruction.
Claire Wilson, a recreation, parks and tourism administration junior said the word “fee” did not properly describe what the students were actually paying for.
“Tuition is associated with the price of classes and education whereas fees just kind of sound like you don’t know what you’re paying for,” Wilson said. “It sounds like an extra burden or payment that we are making.”
The word “fee” has caused problems for student military veterans trying to collect GI Bill payments for their education at CSUs.
Erik Fallis, a CSU media relations specialist, said problems arose for students at CSUs when the new GI Bill came in out in August 2009.
According to the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ website, the post-9/11 GI Bill stated that veterans would be reimbursed for the highest state tuition rate for an in-state school. Since the CSUs are tuition-free, the terminology glitch could cost veterans thousands of dollars toward their education.
“The terminology caused some confusion for students trying to get benefits under the GI Bill,” Fallis said.
Betsy O’Meara, a nutrition junior said the use of the term “tuition” would be an easy, simple fix for Cal Poly and other universities.
“I guess that I don’t really know why we use the term ‘fee’ anyway,” O’Meara said. “Most colleges go by ‘tuition.’”
When the public university system was developed, the idea was for a tuition-free education so the payment was originally coined a fee, according to the press release.
“The use of the word ‘fee’ in place of ‘tuition’ references back to when (the CSU system) was founded as a tuition-free university system,” Fallis said.
However, since 1868 things have changed in California and the CSU system has charged fees synonymous with tuition. The increasing state debt and the failing economy meant that it was necessary to raise fees to the point that fees were no longer small charges. But this large payment charged to students amounted to what other universities called tuition.
“Fees were raised to support education which brought us away from just charging a fee and more towards tuition,” Fallis said. “It’s been decades and centuries since we’ve merely only had a fee by definition.”
Unless students are receiving GI Bill payments or federal financial aid, the terminology will not affect them.
“It is only a change in terminology,” Fallis said. “The money is not going to be spent any differently.”
O’Meara said the change really would not affect her.
“I don’t really think it matters to me,” she said. “I guess it makes things less confusing.”
Besides obliterating the confusion over the two different terms, the changes could also make the students more aware of what exactly each payment is going toward, Wilson said.
“I guess if anything, students will just be more accepting of the costs,” Wilson said. “Also (tuition) is more of a positive word because fee sounds more like an extra obligation.”
The change will hopefully provide clarification for students, Fallis said.
“It was hard for students who were comparing out-of-state universities as well as University of California schools to the CSUs,” he said. “It created some confusion.”
The word “tuition” will slowly replace the older term “fee” on Cal Poly students’ “Money Matters” tab on the Cal Poly Portal by the end of the year and students can expect to see the changes in lingo incorporated into e-mails and letters sent from Cal Poly as well.