UPDATE: Protesters Decry Kent State Student Fee Change
University not considering review of fee change; appeal process available to students
Editor's note: this story was updated at 10 a.m.
Students protesting an increase in course fees at Kent State University waved signs and shouted outside administrative offices on campus Thursday.
Whether their message fell on deaf ears remains to be seen.
About 50 students stood on and around the sculpture just outside the Kent State Library in Risman Plaza for three hours protesting what's been called the "ambition penalty," which is a course fee applied to each credit hour for students enrolled in more than 17 credit hours in a semester.
Kent State Provost Todd Diacon said the fee, which university trustees voted to increase last month, is common at universities across Ohio and the nation.
"It’s reflective of the costs of an education," Diacon said. "But most importantly, it’s required to raise the revenues we need to build good buildings, to maintain buildings and to keep good faculty."
Starting next fall, students will be charged the individual credit-hour fee of $440 for all enrolled hours above 17 credit hours. The average Kent State student is enrolled in 13.5 credit hours per semester. During the 2013-2014 academic year, students who enroll in more than 16 credit hours per semester will be charged the standard credit-hour rate for each additional hour.
Diacon said part of his role as the new provost is to explain to students why the fees are necessary, and that discussion started Wednesday night when he met with a group of about 15 honors students.
"They understood my argument that we have to preserve the quality of a Kent State degree, and we have to enhance a Kent State degree through investments in infrastructure and by hiring good faculty," he said. "We don’t have plans to reevaluate the fee."
Students circulated petitions against the fee during the protest, which attracted both upper-level administrators and Kent State police officers — both of which observed from a distance. The protestors' chants included a modified soccer chant with the word "oley" replaced with the words "won't pay" and the chant "M-O-N-E-Y, you ain't got no alibi, you're greedy!"
The protest was held in view of the administrative offices that includes the windows of Kent State President Lester Lefton's office.
Kent State spokesperson Tom Neumann said Lefton was not on campus during the three-hour protest.
One observer was Evan Gildenblatt, the incoming executive director of Kent State's Undergraduate Student Government.
Gildenblatt declined to share his personal views on the fee, but said his role is to serve as a facilitator of dialogue between students, administrators and state officials on the issue.
"And that’s what I’m looking to do now, is to work proactively with the students, with the administration, with the board of trustees, with the state government to try to find acceptable solutions to make it so students can afford their education," he said. "Really my hope right now is that we can get students and university representatives sitting down at the table on the same page understanding each other’s sides, being able to work together to figure out how we can mitigate the impact of the policy on our students."
He said he wants students to be aware that there is an appeal process available through the university ombudsman's office for issues they feel are beyond their control.
"I also would encourage every student to speak with the financial aid office and to see their advisor, because advising is key in this to make sure you get through on time with the proper courses so you’re not paying overload fees," he said.