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Watch out for hidden fees as colleges pass Covid-related expenses on to students

Jessica Dickler Aug 20 2020, 8:00 AM

A college tuition bill.

For the colleges that still plan to bring students back to campus, there is no shortage of expenses associated with in-person instruction.

From Covid-19 tests to new standards for cleaning and disinfecting, the costs are adding up.

For students, that is translating into new fees on an already sky-high tuition bill.

At Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, for example, students taking in-person classes must take a Covid-19 test. To help defray the cost, each student is required to pay a Covid-19 mitigation fee of $950 for the year.

Further, according to the school’s website, there will be no refunds for tuition, room and board or any fees, including the mitigation fee, if Merrimack determines that it must shut down and transition to remote learning. The school did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Other colleges and universities are less transparent about the extra charges, but they may still be there, wrapped into pre-existing line items for room and board or student health.

This semester, out-of-state students at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, will see their student fees increase by nearly $500, in addition to a new $50 health and safety charge.

“If they don’t tack on these fees, they are going to be in trouble,” said Christopher Rim, president and CEO of Command Education. “But, it’s not fair, students don’t really get a choice to opt out.”

There is little hope of recouping these costs should schools revert to remote learning.

Declining enrollment, refund requests and increased costs due to new public safety measures are putting many schools in extreme financial jeopardy, according to Hafeez Lakhani, founder and president of Lakhani Coaching.

These schools have no choice but to pass on some of the expense to students and their families. “Revenue is being squeezed from numerous directions and Covid testing costs are in addition to normal overhead,” Lakhani said.

“A significant number of colleges will not be able to come out of this academic year financially soluble,” he added. “The equation simply doesn’t balance.”

This article appeared on CNBC on Aug 20, 2020