College students were blindsided last week by a surprise fee on their billing statements. For most students, the fee was between $30 to $40, not a crippling sum even for economically disadvantaged College students, but still a fee they should have been alerted about beforehand, especially since they were told their statements were in balance only weeks before.
The timing of the fee was pretty disastrous. The due date for the Fall 2008 bill was Sept. 19, and many students only found out the day before. If students don’t pay their outstanding balances quickly enough, they could be subject to big late fees, turning a relatively benign $30 into a much deeper debt.
College officials like Michael Dennis, senior loan counselor at the office of Student Financial Assistance, suggested students had other ways of finding out about the fee, such as finding out from their lenders directly. Simply being aware of the fee wasn’t a big help in this case, however, since many students found out about it on short notice.
College officials claimed since the fee wasn’t a College fee, but rather a lender fee, they weren’t obligated to alert students about it. We understand if the College simply wasn’t aware of the fee immediately, but this seems like a copout – the students are still paying the fee in Green Hall, located on the College campus.
In this case, the College should be working with students to help them better understand and manage their finances. Student loans are a burden nearly every student carries, and it would behoove the College to cultivate financially responsible and aware students.
True, the lender has a responsibility as well, but since the fee shows up on TESS and is handled by College employees, the least the College can do is send out a simple e-mail letting students know they owe money ahead of time.
These are issues that the new student administration system will hopefully address. Whatever the replacement for TESS may be, it should provide timely automatic alerts about outstanding debts.