As of this semester, current undergraduate students at the University are paying anywhere from $760 to $1140 for each credit, depending on the number of credits they are taking. On top of tuition, students are also faced with the expenses of textbooks, room and board, and additional supplies needed for each class. So why are lab fees for classes such as information technology, graphic design chemistry, biology and other lab sciences necessary?
According to Dr. Michael Palladino, Dean of the School of Science, lab fees for science classes range from $35-$100. He says that these fees are intended to support certain classes’ needs that generally exceed the cost of non-lab courses. “For example, in the sciences, specific laboratory courses require instrumentation and supplies that are not needed in lecture and discussion based courses. This allows the University to maintain a tuition structure that is the same for all majors but any student taking a lab-intensive course pays fees associated with that course,” said Palladino.
“Institutions with no lab fee structure often charge higher tuition for all students and then use a portion of that tuition to cover lab expenses. In that model, students are paying for costs that may provide little direct benefit to them if they take relatively few lab courses.” Palladino also says that lab fees remain relatively stable, as the cost of supplies increases only three to five percent each year.
Lab fees are also considered when creating financial aid packages for each student at the University, said Claire Alasio, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Director of Financial Aid. She said that students may use federal, state, and/or institutional grant and/or loan funds to pay for lab fees.
Science classes are not the only courses at the University that require extra fees. All information technology classes charge lab fees as well. The money is necessary for software and technology equipment in the labs. Jamie Kretsch, information technology professor said, “We use a variety of software products. We feel it is essential to expose students to mainstream software, those popular choices that are in use at the majority of companies and organizations students will move on to after graduation, so we always attempt to teach with the current software releases of these top-rated products.” Kretsch said that with these programs and products available to students in the labs in Howard Hall on campus, they do not have to purchase them for their own computers.
Palladino said other expenses for lab sciences may include lab manuals, safety glasses, goggles, and lab coats. However, these materials are often used for multiple classes. The additional costs of information technology classes cover equipment such as printers or new computers, according to Kretsch.
To help students earn money to cover the cost of additional fees, the University offers a lab assistant program. Students must complete IT100 and be recommended by a professor to earn this position, where they assist IT professors in their classes. “It’s a fantastic way for students to earn money, gain additional experience, and show prospective employers that they are comfortable with technology and highly regarded by our faculty,” said Kretsch.
“Without lab fees, it would not be possible to have high-quality lab experiences with modern instrumentation and supplies,” said Palladino. Francis Lutz, computer science professor, agrees. He said, “Unless another source of income was to replace lab fees, like charging all students more for tuition or raising more funds as donations in support of laboratory instruction, the quality of lab sciences would diminish significantly if the lab fees were eliminated.”
The University does other things to make these expenses easier on students. From the financial aid office to other organizations in different departments, keeping costs as low as possible is always a topic of interest. Palladino is part of a group that is “currently examining best practices for providing students with access to textbooks and other related materials in a way that provides choices and manages costs for our students.”
Kretsch, Lutz and Palladino all agree that the University is more than fair in supporting the financial needs of each class and that the experiences gained by students is well worth the expense. Palladino said of his undergraduate education at the College of New Jersey, “The personalized college experience I had as an undergraduate student was the most influential experience in deciding my career path. Looking back on this experience, tuition at that time seemed inexpensive, but my parents didn’t think so when they were paying the tuition bills. I can tell you that in my particular experience the benefits of my undergraduate education, in terms of professional success and satisfaction and monetary value in my career, have far exceeded the costs of my education.”