CU students pay course fees for high-cost classes not covered by tuition

Eva Weinberg, a sophomore studio art major, sketches outside the Visual Arts Complex. Every semester, students pay an Arts and Cultural Enrichment Fee. (James Bradbury/CU Independent)
Eva Weinberg, a sophomore studio art major, sketches outside the Visual Arts Complex. Every semester, students pay an Arts and Cultural Enrichment Fee. (James Bradbury/CU Independent)

Students enrolled in certain classes and programs at CU are directly sustaining their education by paying course fees that cover expenses like equipment and software necessary to their curriculum.

Charging a little extra per specific class allows departments to enrich their offerings to students beyond the limits of their allocated budget. According to the Bursar’s Office website, course and program fees are instructional fees charged on an individual basis per semester that offset certain added costs. This means students pay for things like lab equipment, software licenses and class demonstrations that otherwise could not be afforded.

“All class fees go into a pot [within our department], and the courses with the greatest need get the greatest share,” said Don Yannacito, a film studies instructor.

Film studies charges $85 to take a critical studies course and $210 per film production course, covering specialized equipment and salaries in about equal measure, with much of the rest going to film rentals and purchases. On the other hand, the geology department charges $25 for lectures and $55 for labs.

These fees stem from the relative costs of cameras and microscopes, but also from the transportation cost of the $70,000 geology field program, in which students travel to sites for fieldwork. The cost of this single program forms the bulk of the $120,000 the geology department makes each year in course fees.

Geology department chair Lang Farmer said the charges are items students can’t be expected to afford on their own.

“Students won’t always get their $25 back in the specific class they paid for, but in other courses they’ll be reimbursed the cost because of the field trips or software that those fees provide,” Farmer said.

In order to fundraise according to their own needs, state law requires that each department assemble a student committee to set course fees.

“They tell us at the beginning of the year, this is how much money we have,” said senior geology major Jeri Tebbetts, 37, who was selected by Farmer to serve on this year’s geology department committee. “As proposals come in, our group of undergrads kind of whittles away at that number.”

Officers in the economics club work on their department’s advisory board to determine the amount and usage of fees. From smallest to largest expenditure, economics fees support undergraduate student research, the economics club, graduation ceremonies and a free tutoring program.

Department chair Nicholas Flores works with the economics advisory board to build a budget.

“When I became chair, I brainstormed with them to figure out things that would provide the most bang for their buck, and the tutoring program that provides undergraduate and graduate tutors came to the top,” Flores said.

Andrew Cowell, a linguistics professor, is thankful for the fees and said they provide opportunities for his students that are vital in development within their field.

“We feel it’s appropriate to ask the students in the class to pay a little extra to have this opportunity,” Cowell said. “Otherwise, we’d be just talking about other languages, without the students getting the chance to work with them hands-on, so to speak.”

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Gabriel Larsen-Santos at

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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