Tracing Lab Fee Funds
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 01:03
Tracing to which program and in whose pocket the small fortunes each undergraduate pays to attend Georgetown end up is nearly impossible. And with the cost of attendance for the 2012-2013 academic year nearing $60,000, it is easy to resent this ambiguity.
Lab fees, a supplemental cost charged to students taking certain kinds of courses in arts, languages and sciences, however, are small and limited enough to track. Revamping the system would allow students to see where that portion of their tuition goes.
For classes within the art department, the lab fees collected do not necessarily go toward paying for the supplies used in the class in which the student has enrolled. Rather, the money gets placed into a department-wide pool that is then redistributed and allocated among art classes.
Because the money is not given solely to the class in which a student is enrolled, it may be the case that students in a class that does not require extensive use of supplemental materials are paying for the supplies in a different, more equipment-heavy class. Students in a drawing class that sketch still lifes may not have anything purchased for them with their lab fees, while students in a graphic design course have all their materials — including expensive paper and ink — paid for by others.
Students who choose a certain artistic specialty should not have to base it on the financial cost. It is unfair to simply charge graphic design students more than a student specializing in drawing, for example. Perhaps it isn’t wrong to charge all students an equal fee and have classes subsidize each other. Perhaps this system does indeed ensure that the funds are spent most effectively and responsibly. However, there should be some degree of openness. Having a rough outline on MyAccess during pre-registration of how the professors plan to use the lab fees could create more transparency and accountability for the department and show students where exactly their money is going.
This policy would be simple to implement and would not necessarily impose restrictions on how department heads spend the funds. It would just hold them more accountable to the decisions they make.