Higher Education Costs are Complete Rubbish. COMPLETE. RUBBISH. (Rant)

To Whom it May Concern,

I am currently attending USM as a full-time post-bachelors degree student. I received my BA from USM in 2011, and am now finishing my medical school pre-requisites. I chose USM for its diverse course offerings, accommodating schedule, and my own personal familiarity with the college.

From the time I first enrolled at USM, in the Fall of 2006, up to now, the cost to attend the university continues to astound me. In fact, the overall (and increasing) cost of attending higher education is baffling in and of itself, but that is a whole other letter for another day.

I am, and have always been (Save two semesters), a commuter student. For the majority of my college career, I have lived over an hour away from both the Gorham and Portland campuses. I never use the student center, the health center, or even the parking garage… and absolutely never use the buses. My schedule is so tight that I arrive at class on time after dropping my son off at school, and then by the time I’m done with my classes, I just make it home to pick up my son before his daycare closes.

There are many services which USM offers that I do not use. I appreciate the existence of the student health center and the shuttle buses. I think many students must make use of them. I, however, do not. And I do not accept the fact that I am forced to pay myriad exorbitant fees so I can take my classes and go home. I don’t even park on campus.

For example, take the Transportation Fee ($83 per semester). I am a commuter, I do not park on campus, and I never use the buses. I wonder why I am paying $83 for a service I do not use? Why not have students who wish to use the service pay $83 and add a swipe card for student ID’s?

Another example, the Health Fee ($80 per semester). I have my own insurance. I do not ever plan on going to USM’s health clinic. Why not have each student who uses the clinic pay $80 per semester they plan on using it?

Yet another fee that I love paying every semester is the Student Activity Fee ($27 per semester) Yeah, because I have time to join a club on top of commuting two hours per day, taking care of my son, cooking, cleaning, studying, and class time. As a student who is non-traditional, much like many other students at USM, I am not interested in being social. I am interested in becoming educated.

Oh yeah, and course fees. Varying from $5 to $50 per course (and possibly more, that’s just the range I’ve seen.) and paying for… I’m not sure what. Considering each 3 credit class I take costs over $850, I really appreciate having to pay $50 extra on top of that. I’d like to get my lab manual for free if I’m going to pay $50 extra for a nearly-thousand-dollar class.

My favorite example is the “Unified Student Fee,” ($266 for Portland and Gorham, PLUS $112 for LAC for a grand total of $378 per semester.) Not even entirely sure what this pays for. But, unless the fee goes to the actual chairs that I sit on during class, (Which I hope it doesn’t, because they’re incredibly uncomfortable, and I’m sure it doesn’t because they’re definitely the same chairs I sat on in 2006) then I am 100% sure I do not use whatever it is paying for. Because I go to class, sit down, take notes, and then leave.

Yes, it takes money to pay for professor’s salaries, staff salaries, electricity, water, etc. Of course it does. But I’d like to break down some things; When your professors with PhD’s who probably average about 50 years old, were getting their doctorates, they were paying half the cost of our bachelors degree. I’ll reiterate that,  we are now paying double the cost now for our bachelors degree.* Which gets us precisely nowhere if you’re not in business or the medical field. (Poor Classics and Anthropology majors…)

Keeping on track, what I was saying is that the amount that it cost our professors to get their degree is basically equivalent to one full-time semester at USM. Without all the fees. Let’s not even get started on the tuition increases we see every single year.

I’m not the only commuter that needs to pay for gas and a car payment (My transportation fee should go to that,) her own health insurance, (So glad I have a health fee to pay on top of that deductible) as well as oh… rent, daycare, groceries (Because I can’t afford the ridiculously priced food you try to sell us. $7 for yesterday’s Aramark chicken salad, are you kidding me?), etc., etc. In fact, I’m the majority. The majority of the people that I sit in class with are in middle-aged, with many other things they have to pay for. They aren’t using the student health center, or joining any clubs.

The fact that I am obligated to pay hundreds of dollars per semester in fees that absolutely do not apply, and then pay increased tuition is absolutely appalling. It is easy to say the fees support the electric bill, the brand new signs I see scattered around campus, the free donuts that show up every once in a while… But I don’t care about the extras. I would attend college in a tin can with no heat if I got my degree and a good education.

Higher education needs to make changes. And it needs to start now, or else your most highly educated generation will also be your absolute poorest.

* (College Board 2010; 1980 cost of one full-time semester of a public university was $2000 or so) 

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