Baruch Academic Excellence Fee — Some Perspective

Bursar Bill from Baruch College for MBA PT FALL, 2011

This graduate student greeted the announcement of the new academic excellence fee with little welcome.  No one likes to learn that they will have to pay more for the same thing.  Moreover, the timing, just weeks before the Bursar’s deadline, was a slap.  However, with a little distance,  let’s look calmly at the issue.

First thing first, the timing was terrible. No one is denying it. Apparently the administration couldn’t avoid it.  Second, let’s face it:  Baruch provides a top-notch education with very affordable tuition.  Prices are bound to rise (and frankly they need to).  We don’t have to like it, but costs are rising.

That bit of rationalization probably doesn’t make you feel any better.  What we really need is a bogey man. Someone to beat up and blame for this mess. Well there is plenty of blame to go around.  Let’s start with the mirror.  Tell the truth now — did you send e-mails to your elected representatives earlier this year during budget time in Albany?  Did your representatives know how important the incredibly low tuition was to you? We all got repeated reminders from CUNY to do so.

Artist unknown. From J.A. Cochrane, The Story of Newfoundland (Montreal: Ginn and Company, 1938) 127.

Next up, and a favorite whipping post, the pols in Albany.  They set mandates for CUNY and importantly, send a huge amount of funding.  The obvious problem is the amount of the funding.  You’ve read the headlines.  There is no more money and pols up and down the line are refusing to raise taxes.  Second, the pols dictate how much tuition can rise.  The new fee is an outgrowth of that reality.  Baruch is hardly alone among state-funded schools across the country that find themselves between a fiscal rock and a hard reality.  Extra fees are a common, albeit hardly welcome, route.

Your ire and wagging finger are now roaming over to the 13th floor at the NVC.  Just remember, they are on our side and trying to build this institution (and thus your future earning power.)  Certainly this episode could have been handled better.  It’s time to move on, though.  Let’s get past the ruffled feathers and get productive about how these funds will be used.

Don’t confuse this post with a get-out-of-jail-free card.  There are honest and tough questions to explore.  In cooperation with Frank Fletcher, Director of Graduate Programs, ZSB, we secured an interview with Dean Elliot.  Baruch will make a video of this interview available through the Graduate Baruchian.

I’ve gathered questions from the student body.  Please comment below or send your comments to me — in confidence if you like.   The interview is scheduled for early next week. The video will be available shortly there after.

12 Responses to “Baruch Academic Excellence Fee — Some Perspective”
  1. Mike Sohn says:

    I agree that the timing was awful. However, the tuition increase should have been expected as each year they raise tuition for the fall semester.

    As for this academic excellence fee, I don’t feel that Baruch has given enough information to students as to what the money will be for. If there was a clear indication of what the money will be used for (i.e. additional faculty, new equipment, etc.), I think it would be understandable.

    Also, I think consideration should be given to those students that are close to completing their degrees. It is likely that they will not benefit from this academic excellence fee. THerefore I think they should get a waiver from this fee.

    At this moment I feel fortunate that I finished my degree this past spring semester, but I will reserve final judgment until I learn what this fee will ultimately go towards.

  2. As students, we rely on the faculty and administration to communicate with us about important issues that affect us as students. The way that this Academic Excellence Fee was communicated is another example of how much room there is for improvement, and how wide the gap can be between the administration and their supposed stakeholders – the students. Lem has pointed out that the timing of communication of this fee was bad, and the administration, through Frank Fletcher, has pretty much apologized about this (although also blaming timing on students who raised a valiant effort to block the fee, which doesn’t come off so well). I agree, what’s done is done and we need to move on to be productive. But this issue of not knowing what the money will be used for feels like a slap in the face. Committees usually discuss these kinds of developments, and there should be student representation on these committees. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t – it ain’t easy to get student engagement on these committees. I know, because I’m the one that’s supposed to be engaging them. But I’ve had consistent push-back when trying to get the administrative and faculty leaders of these committees to communicate with me directly so I and other student representatives can then communicate to the general student body. I can’t help feeling like they don’t really want us involved.

    I call now on all administrators and faculty members that have seats on ANY AND ALL Zicklin, SPA, Weissman, and Baruch committees to join me in closing the communication gap between you and us, your students. We need you to open up to us, to work with us, to actively engage us. My email is If anyone on the administration reads this, please reach out to me to help me gain support within the administrative and faculty committees so that this kind of communication disaster doesn’t happen again. If you are a student and you want to join me in getting involved on committees so that we can have more say, more voice, and more knowledge about what is happening at our school, please email me as well.


  3. Emily Rotella says:

    Did everyone know that the second year MBA Honors students are being exempt from the fees? But the rest of us, even if we are at the end of our programs, are not exempt? Thanks.

    • I could be wrong, but I think that’s because Honors students pay the 3k upfront. The academic excellence fee actually brings everyone up to what the goldies have already been paying.

  4. The communication between Baruch and its students is so efficient that I just found out about this fee this weekend. The first week of August I paid my Fall Semester bill IN FULL. This weekend I just happen to check esims since class is starting in a week and I see I have a balance of $750. I e-mailed the bursar today and now they tell me they are dropping courses tomorrow morning.

    My problem is not raising tuition, or inventing new ways of making us pay more. I expect that from my school, my government and just society in general. Fine. However Baruch needs a system in place to contact me when additional fees are being added to a bill I already paid. If I go to dinner and order a $20 steak, don’t tell me halfway through eating it that it is now $30.

    I received no phone calls or letters to my home about this. I did not check my baruch mail the last few weeks as I was on summer vacation and was not attending any courses so I assumed there would be no need to check my school email account. Obviously I assumed wrong.

  5. graduatebaruchshamash says:

    from anonymous MPA student
    MPA students were actually the only grad students not affected by the Academic Excellence Fee. We were hit with a “differential tuition” hike instead. (But in fact it’s less severe than the “Fee”.) The MPA Club hosted a roundtable discussion with the Dean last semester to discuss it. Sounds like the other Deans are looking to do something similar and intend to be transparent.

    If you google Academic Excellence Fees you’ll see that the term has become very common, nation-wide, to refer to fees being charged in lieu of tuition increases or a portion of a tuition increase. Private colleges don’t have to worry about this, of course, because they can raise tuition as often and as much as they like. But it is popular among public university systems, who are often tied down by state legislators when it comes to setting tuition rates, at the moment .

    I would encourage everyone to do a little research before joining the firing squad. Not because it will or should appease them, but because it will lead to a more productive conversation. Examples from other public university systems might offer potential solutions and compromises, such as one that’s offering financial hardship waivers for the fee (Louisiana, I think…).

    I think it is in everyone’s interest to steer the conversation away from satire and snark once you have the right people in the room. All that being said, I sympathize, and I’m sorry these fees are hitting everyone when times are already so tough.

  6. Brian says:

    As an incoming part-time student, the timing was horrendous and inexcusable. My company picks up some of the tab and I had just completed the necessary hoop-jumping of getting all necessary approvals and made the payment in full. Only to get an email a few days later about the increase. What a nightmare to have to go back to my company with revised paperwork, explanations, etc. Us newcomers didn’t get the CUNY emails about lobbying representatives. This has not given me a very good first impression of the school.

  7. Amy says:

    When tuition has been increased — ESPECIALLY so close to the deadline — we should at least be receiving an e-mail letting us know that we suddenly have an additional balance on our account. It’s not even the fact that this was done so last minute that irks me, because I understand that sometimes things like this cannot be helped (and I knew, when applying for a master’s degree, that it would be costly), it’s the fact that I didn’t even receive notification from the college itself.

    Having been enrolled within the CUNY system since the beginning of my undergraduate career, I feel like communication from their institutions to their students has always been a failing point. And it gets me frustrated because it’s so easy now to get in touch with students electronically. We are all issued a college e-mail account, and yes, it is our fault if we don’t check it regularly, but this time it isn’t our fault, nothing was sent and I find that absolutely ludicrous. This is a prime example why college e-mail accounts exist, and they certainly are not serving their purpose.

    I have friends in other master’s programs at Baruch who had no idea until I told them to check their tuition bills. It is the college’s responsibility for letting its students know about an increase in tuition, no matter what the new amount may be, and no matter what time of year it is increased.

  8. Claire D. says:

    I don’t get aid and pay in cash. I just had to un-enroll for this semester, partially due to the dollar amount, but mostly out of disgust for the way they’ve handled the increases. I have written the Mr. Fletcher, the Executive Director of the Grad Programs twice now to appeal, but had not heard back.

    Whether or not I called my Congress person is irrelevant because I don’t disagree with the fee or tuition increase, per se. I do, however, think that the Board failed in its implementation of fee, both in timing and communication. The gravity of the situation goes a bit further than a one time fee change.

    We have not been notified on paper, and were not given timely notice. Given the regulation for things like insurance around fee increase notifications, and standard business practice for notices (letters, not email), it is ironically un-businesslike and imprudent that they would levy a significant increase without taking seemingly elementary steps. I get the distinct impression that they all though about the bottom line (“we need this, and we needed it YESTERDAY”), and didn’t think through the implications of pushing it on students now, as opposed to notifying us now and starting collection for Spring 2012.

    Furthermore, the language stating that the Board has the right to raise fees and tuitions doesn’t give me much faith that they may not just raise the fee every semester going forward. They have violated student trust. How do we know that the fee won’t be $2,000 more for Spring semester? $4,000 more for the next. Doesn’t it seem odd that there is not a due process clause in the Board’s by-laws requiring such notice, or appeal rights?

    I have loved my classes so far, and am quite upset that I need to take the semester off…I hope they can do better in the future.

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