Graduate students push pack against $300 First Year Experience Fee

Students+voiced+concerns+about+the+%24300+fee+they+are+automatically+enrolled+in.+Students+Must+opt+out+the+fee%2C+but+direct+information+about+how+to+do+this+has+been+scarce.

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Students voiced concerns about the $300 fee they are automatically enrolled in. Students Must opt out the fee, but direct information about how to do this has been scarce.

by John Paul Cavada , Staff Writer

The Graduate Student Experience Program, organized by the Office for Graduate Life and Diversity, has been met with student pushback concerning its excessive fees. The GSEP contains the First Year Experience Fee, which is a fee of $300 that can be opted out of. 

The FYE fee covers the Pre-Orientation, Orientation and the Office for Graduate Life’s student activities during the first year of graduate school, according to the New Student and Parent Programs.

Upon admission, graduate students who have 18 or more units matriculated are automatically placed into the GSEP, according to the Office for Graduate Life and Diversity. 

Graduate students who opt out of the program will still have full access to existing and critical support services provided by the university, according to the Office for Graduate Life and Diversity.

However, graduate students have not been properly informed about the option to opt out of the FYE fee.

“What this feels like to me is, the program is relying on graduate students missing the deadline to opt out and forcing them to then pay a $300 enrollment fee, which is predatory,” chemistry graduate student Colton Breyer said.

The only information regarding the program and the option to opt out was a single sentence buried within an email, according to chemistry graduate student Ellen Kuang. 

The website to properly opt out of the fee was not included in this email. 

“I personally think it’s incredibly predatory considering that it’s not an ‘opt-in’ program but rather an ‘opt-out’ program…This was thrown upon us without any consultation…” Kuang said.

Breyer adds emails surrounding the GSEP and FYE fee are often sent straight to the spam or junk folder of student emails.

As of now, graduate students are still uncertain whether these fees are paid out of their loans or out of their pocket.

Graduate students who have been unknowingly opted-in consider the orientation events within the GSEP to be a standard practice. 

“Us graduate students, the time that we do have is quite precious to us…If I don’t have to, I would honestly rather not have to go some of those things, and feel that I need to get my money’s worth because I’m being forced to pay $300 for it,” Kuang said.

Breyer shares his experience that graduate students are some of the most financially burdened individuals due to working paycheck and paycheck with debt from previous education.

“We’re really all not particularly fond of it. We’re already having to pay a lot out of pocket…Asking us to shell out more is absolutely unreasonable,” Kuang said.

Graduate students have pitched an alternative for the FYE fee. Instead of being an “opt-out” program, the GSEP should be an “opt-in” program.

“The frustrating part about the whole thing is most of the services included in the $300 fee should be free resources for the student and not an additional tacked-on fee,” Breyer said.

As a graduate student within the College of Science, Kuang already has access to similar programs that the GSEP expects them to pay for.

“I believe they have mental health programs as well as writing assistance or some support like that. We already have programs for the College of Science to have help with that…There’s no point in paying another $300 for that sort of redundancy,” Kuang said.

There are still many graduate students today that are unaware of the GSEP and its accompanying FYE fee, according to Breyer.