Tuition payments with a credit card will cost you

Starting a new semester is exciting, but it’s one of the most expensive times of the year. Students have to purchase books, supplies, dorm room or apartment gear and for those without a scholarship deferment, tuition in full. ‘

Now, to make matters worse, paying tuition with a credit card will cost students even more.

Rather than the previous flat fee of $10 for using a credit card, students now pay 2.5 percent of the tuition payment. Sure, 2.5 percent sounds like a small number, but considering the large dollar amounts on the price of tuition — it adds up quickly.

According to USF’s University Scholarships and Financial Aid Services, the average undergraduate Florida resident full-time student pays $6,330 a year for tuition. Paying that with a credit card would cost a student an extra $158. That’s easily a week’s worth of food or a month’s worth of gas but will instead have no benefit to the student. For out-of-state full-time students, tuition averages $16,260 a year. That’s a $400 fee for paying with a credit card; an entire month’s rent lost to a credit card fee.

This is a huge jump from paying just $20 last year. For students paying their own tuition, every dollar counts. It is hard enough working a part-time job within the first week of school on top of all the other expenses, without having to pay over $3,000 for the semester up front.

Students have been encouraged to use other payment mechanisms, such as e-checks, cash, personal checks or money orders, to avoid paying credit card convenience fees. That sounds easy for anyone to say with a full-time job making a decent salary or who happens to have $3,000 in cash laying around.

However, for a full-time student working part-time, paying tuition isn’t as easy as just writing a check, considering most students are lucky to have $500 in the bank. Even for parents who pay their child’s tuition, $3,000 is a large sum that not everyone has immediate access to. This also means that unless a student can pay with an e-check the convenience of paying tuition online is no longer an option. Paying with cash, check or money order has to be done in person or check or money order can be sent by mail.

The change was purportedly made because the $10 flat fee did not come close to covering the use of credit card payment costs and will now avoid such large costs being taken out of reserve funds. From the surface that makes sense, but it shouldn’t be the student’s responsibility to take care of preserving the reserve funds when they are already paying so much for education. If the school found a way to cover these costs in past years, then it’s not right to suddenly make the decision for students to start paying more because the school administration is having financial problems. Students have bills to pay too.

Ali Leist is a junior majoring in mass communications.