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(Nigel Amstock/CU Independent Photo Illustration)
(Nigel Amstock/CU Independent Photo Illustration)

A breakdown of student fees

(Nigel Amstock/CU Independent Photo Illustration)
University of Colorado students already pay upwards of tens of thousands of dollars for tuition each year, with another couple thousand a year tacked on in student fees. (Nigel Amstock/CU Independent Photo Illustration)


In addition to costs of tuition, room and board, books and other school expenses, CU Boulder students pay nearly $1,000 in student fees each semester, money directed toward funding a variety of campus clubs and institutions that would otherwise be unable to operate. But the fees system is complex and not especially transparent, and student opinion is varying as a result.

“If you want to charge me more for my education, raise tuition,” said 21-year-old junior economics major William Garvey. “If this extra money that we’re going to be paying is critical for our own success as students, then it should be classified as tuition and be subject to all of the requirements that the rest of the money we pay toward tuition is.”

But Karl Kemper, a 20-year-old sophomore history major, said even if students are not aware of the intricacies of CU’s student fee spending, they have positive implications for the student body overall.

“Without the benefits afforded by student fees, what we’d have is a degree factory,” he said. “No education or employment services, no help for students, no atmosphere, no health and counseling. I’m fine paying for the betterment of the overall group, regardless of my own individual participation.”

Some fees can be waived during registration, but CU’s list of student fees blankets the entire student body. A student’s credit hours and degree program determine the amount of fees paid, regardless of status as in or out-of-state. Most of the money helps cover the expenses of high-cost institutions like the Wardenburg Health Center. Student funding boards allocate the rest to a variety of smaller student and faculty-run services and clubs.

Jordan Borenstein, a 21-year-old senior psychology major, said the fees of the many should not support the needs of the few.

“What I’m wondering in all this is why we all have to pay for even the smallest student groups,” she said. “Why are 10,000 students paying for a club with 50 kids, when it could even be a club we totally disagree with?”

Below is an overview of the variety of fees paid by CU undergraduates. 

1. According to the CU Bursar’s Office, Undergraduate Mandatory Fees pay for essential university services and are charged per semester, based on each student’s course of study and the number of credit hours he or she has enrolled in.

  • CU Student Government manages over a third of these mandatory fees, labeled Student Activity Fees. The board distributed them to various cost centers on campus, like the University Memorial Center and the Rec Center. In Spring 2014, CUSG drew $292.79 out of the $847.93 fee for any student taking seven or more credit hours. The remaining $555.14 cover the campus bus service, the Athletic Fee, the Student Computing Fee, the Student Health Fee and the many construction programs around campus. The recent Rec Center Renovation Fee added $108.54 to support the nearly completed construction.

2. Program fees offset the higher costs of specific instructional programs by paying for specialized supplies and equipment. Program Fees are charged per person and per semester, ranging from $1 per credit hour to $1,255 per semester depending on one’s program of study. For example, the Creative Writing Program Fee of $4 per credit hour supports publications by undergraduates and visits from guest authors, while the Business Minor Program Fee of $500 per course goes toward supporting faculty and technology at Leeds Business School.

3. Course fees are not program fees, even though both pay for class-specific supplies and equipment. Course fees cover the cost of specific classes and are paid in addition to the program fee, such as the $300 required to take certain upper division education courses or the $5 paid for upper division psychology courses.

4. Beginning in Spring 2012, fees for the theater and dance program and for lower division writing & rhetoric became classified as program fees rather than course fees. Their charges are essentially the same, with $15 for theater, $10 for upper division writing, and $25 for first-year writing.

5. Additional required fees exist for students new to CU. When first registering for a program of study, every student is charged a one-time New Student Fee between $105 and $225. The total charge depends on (inter)national status and degree selection.The New Student Fee contributes to the cost of registration services such as the undergraduate orientation program, Forever Buffs Alumni Membership and our Buff OneCard. It is nonrefundable and due even if a student withdraws.

  • The last type of New Student Fee is the Confirmation Deposit, a $200 enrollment charge due upon admission to CU-Boulder. This deposit is returned whether a student graduates or withdraws, excluding any outstanding charges like a lost library book. Students can also choose to donate their remaining deposit to CU for future scholarship funds.

The CU student government will be holding its annual budget meetings this and next week, the weeks of Feb. 24 and March 3. Budgets comprised of Student Activity Fees will be allocated to cost centers and student groups.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Gabriel Larsen Santos at


About Gabriel Larsen-Santos

Gabriel is a senior studying history and doing journalism. He loves reading, writing, meteor showers, and long walks on the beach. Contact him at just to say hi.

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