University considers raising student lab fees

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The amount of money students pay in lab fees is now insufficient to cover the total cost of operating and maintaining school labs, and a fee increase may be considered, according to university officials now looking into the disparity.

“It costs $10,000 for glassware alone in the College of (Science and Mathematics),” said Jerry Stinner, the college’s dean.

He also said the college will need help from students, because support from the state is decreasing, and labs fees have not increased in more than a decade.

Lab fees offset the large cost of supplies, equipment maintenance and personnel. The fees exist to help cover costs of chemicals, for instance, used in lab and activity classes. Also, in the Art Department, lab fees pay for human models. In the Music Department, lab fees pay for musical instrument tuning and insurance for pianos.

Currently, the amount that students pay in lab fees cannot cover these costs, according to Spero Bowman, associate vice president for Academic Resources and Planning and Chief Information Officer at CSUN.

CSUN Provost Harold Hellenbrand asked the deans to gather information and compare lab expenses with lab fees and see if there is a gap.

“We have a dilemma on our hands,” Hellenbrand said. “The General Fund support from the state is not sufficient to help with these fees.”

Hellenbrand also said that if the state does not help, then the university is hesitant to raise fees. He said that if this happens, the university will have to allocate funds elsewhere, which might result in loss of classes.

Because there has not been an increase in lab fees in many years, and since new labs have been built recently, these extra costs have been covered by academic departments.

The College of Arts, Media and Communication; the College of Health and Human Development; and the Chemistry, Biology, Geology, and to some extent Physics and Astronomy departments have dealt with this situation.

“The $5 lab fee doesn’t really help with the wear and tear on the classrooms,” said William Toutant, dean of the College of Arts, Media and Communication. His college brings in between $200,000 and $300,000 in lab fees.

“We are faced with a difficult issue,” Toutant said. “The fees that are being paid are not sufficient.”

Some students, however, think that what they pay is enough, and the possibility of an increase has some students concerned.

Armen Tudjarian, junior chemistry major, said he would be extremely upset if the university increased lab fees because he said he already pays a lot of money as an international transfer student from Greece.

“They are taking advantage of us,” Tudjarian said. “I believe that we pay enough in tuition, and that it should already pay for these fees.”

Stinner said it is essential that students participate in the lab experience, and he said he would hate to see students only able to do dry labs – labs without experiments – because the school could not afford regular labs. He also said that with many lab fees less than $11 per student, the cost of materials is not covered.

“Currently in the Biology Department, lab fees represent one-fifth of the cost for providing a lab per individual student,” said Larry Allen, chair of the department.

Allen also said that without the fees the proper maintenance of the labs could not be achieved, and the purchase of renewable supplies and guaranteed hours for lab preparation personnel would be in jeopardy, particularly with recent cuts to operating expenses in individual departments.

“The Provost’s Council will be reviewing lab fees this year as well as other miscellaneous course fees,” Bowman, vice president for Academic Resources and Planning, wrote in an e-mail. “The deans will decide whether or not they want to propose changes by working with the university’s Student Fee Advisory Committee.”

If there were to be an increase, it would not happen overnight, Hellenbrand said.

Candice Mitchell can be reached at candice.mitchell.619@csun.edu.