Fees hold back students in Maryland

This post expresses the views and opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily that of The Bowie Sun management or staff.

Higher education is a part of the American dream. We tell young people that if they work hard and go to college, they can make a good life for themselves. But despite this, here in the richest country on earth, we allow colleges and universities to overcharge young people.

I’m not writing about sky-high tuition or housing costs, though those are certainly concerning too. Today I’m writing about fees. College students face a series of unnecessary costs when trying to become, remain, and complete being a student. They pay to apply to schools, they pay all the fees to continue being a student, and then they even pay to graduate! Students who want to continue their education must complete this cycle as many times as necessary. We need to take a serious look at these avoidable costs and reduce them.

The fees start long before the college classes do. When you begin your higher education journey you start with taking the SAT, a costly standardized test. Some even invest in preparation for the test, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Next, students must pay to have multiple scores sent to universities. Lastly, in the application process students pay application fees. Students are paying to have university admission staff review their application. Yes, you read correctly: admissions offices are charging applicants just to submit their applications. How can we expect young people to be interested in applying to colleges when every step of the way they are being financially exploited?

And that is only the beginning of the process, before you even make it into university! The costs continue to roll in during your time as a student, and they pile up even when you’ve completed your courses. Why are there so many fees? Let us examine a common cost that almost every student has paid at some point. To send or request a transcript, most universities charge you a fee. Before technology, universities used to physically mail transcripts. In that case, of course, they had to pay for envelopes and stamps. But now that transcripts are sent electronically, why are we still being charged? This is a cost that should be reduced to almost nothing — or better yet, completely eliminated.

This is not about convenience; this is a matter of financial stability. All the costs stacked on top of each other are a contributing factor to poverty in Maryland. When prospective students cannot afford college, they are left to work at lower paying jobs. Some remain unemployed, contributing to our 4 percent unemployment rate according to Maryland Department of Labor. Eliminating these costs will not make students who do not want to attend college change their mind. But it will make college more accessible to those who do decide to take that route.

We can lead the nation and make Maryland a better place for students by reining in these fees. Let’s give students a chance by eliminating some of these costly barriers to higher education.

Niyah Norton served as a Democracy Fellow at Common Cause Maryland. She is a junior at Bowie State University. 

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