When prospective students tour the University of Missouri-St.
Louis, they invariably ask to see the gym or recreation center. And
that makes the tour guides cringe just a little.
It's not that UMSL doesn't have one. It's just that the dingy
Mark Twain Center is sort of a pale imitation of what's found on
most college campuses today. The jogging track isn't elevated.
There's no rock climbing wall. No whirlpool. And there's no juice
bar dispensing tasty smoothies.
"It's not something we like to showcase," said Alan Byrd, the
school's dean of enrollment services. "For a school of 16,000
students, it doesn't meet our needs."
But things will be changing soon, with work already started on a
$36 million wellness center that will figure prominently in campus
tours once it opens in 2015.
It won't, however, be cheap.
Students, whether they use it or not, will pay as much as $231 a
semester - based on the number of credit hours they take - to
support the center. And while it might seem strange at a time when
so much attention is focused on the cost of college, this is
something students volunteered to do.
In a campus referendum this year, they voted overwhelmingly, 2-
to-1, to bill themselves in the name of fitness.
Jericah Selby, the former UMSL student government president who
is now attending law school at the University of Denver, sees the
rec center as a next step in the school's evolution. But she's not
"I'm not thinking our admission numbers are going to skyrocket,"
Selby said. "But it's something to satisfy a need for students on
And as Byrd says, "One thing about students, they are willing to
pay for things they want."
Across the nation, fees such as this are contributing to what
parents and students see as the soaring cost of a college degree.
Along with hourly tuition rates, students pay a host of add-ons -
many of them mandatory - that include information technology fees,
student activity fees, athletics fees, supplemental course fees,
health service fees, student union fees and transportation fees.
"It's a way to raise tuition and mask it," said Richard Hesel of
the Art & Science Group, a higher education consulting firm in
Baltimore. "I suspect it's actually a strategy at a lot of public
Hesel and others say fees are one way that schools are coping
with dwindling support from state governments, as more of the cost
of education is shifted to universities and their students. It's a
bigger issue at public institutions, where tuition generally is
In a sense, some of these fees act as a form of differential
tuition - the practice of charging some students more for their
education. Simply put, some degrees are costlier to provide than
others. Nursing, for example, requires a lot of expensive lab time,
while English majors require very little in the way of course
So as costs go up for some of the pricier degree fields, schools
have decisions to make. And increasingly, they're hitting students
in those areas of study with supplemental fees, said Ronald
Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research
"The alternative would be to raise the average tuition,"
Ehrenberg said. "Politically, that's more difficult."
There are, however, downsides to differential pricing, because it
effectively makes some degrees less obtainable than others, said
Sandy Baum, an independent higher education policy analyst.
"Are you going to discourage low-income students from enrolling
in high-priced programs?" Baum asked.
MU's BUSINESS FEE
Since 2002, the University of Missouri has added or expanded 20
supplemental fees at its four campuses, including a business school
course fee at its flagship campus in Columbia, a supplemental fee
for physics at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in
Rolla and a theater and dance fee at UMSL. …