Letter: Reader warns about hidden college fees

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We invite readers to contribute letters to the editor. Please include a name, address, and phone number and email us at JGoralski@ SouthingtonObserver.com. There is a limit of 350 words.

To the editor:

Parents and students who pay college tuition beginning this week should take a close look at ALL of the fees listed on the bursar’s statement. In addition to costs for tuition, housing and the meal plan, you will likely see charges that may include “technology” fees, “student activity” fees and several fees that may or may not be noted as “waivable.”

It is important to pay attention to these waivable fees. While the largest and most intuitive is the “student healthcare” fee (you can waive this fee if your child is covered under your existing healthcare plan) there is one fee that, while small, may be the most interesting.

If your student attends a state school, you may see a fee known as “PIRG.” Depending on where your student’s college is located, it may be noted as “connpirg,” “masspirg,” etc. PIRG stands for “Public Interest Research Group,” a political organization. The national website for the organization is www.uspirg.org. The fee at the University of Connecticut is $5 per semester. At the University of Massachusetts, it is $11.

Colleges that have a “PIRG charge” as part of the tuition bill are essentially using these fees to support off-campus activism. And while this is a “waivable” charge, it is often difficult to navigate to the part of the student online portal where you are given this option.

So parents and students who are responsible for paying state college costs may want to take a closer look at the bursar statement this month and, if you choose, waive all fees that are not necessary or, in relation to the “PIRG” fee, are for causes that you and/or your student choose not to support.

Craig Simms, Southington

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