Make the Most of Your College Fees

US News

The sticker price of a college education often includes a handful of mandatory fees to cover on-campus services.

At the University of California--Irvine, students pay a "campus spirit" fee, for example, and students at the University of California--Los Angeles are assessed a "green initiative" fee.

While some schools list out each fee--common charges include technology, health, building, and student activity fees--others lump them into one flat-rate tuition charge, and students typically pay for these services whether they use them or not.

To make your university fees work for you, check in with your resident adviser or stop by the office of the dean of students to find out about free and discounted services available both on and off campus. The following tips can also help college students ensure they're getting the most out of their tuition dollars:

1. Student health: Campus health centers aren't just for sick students. Revamped clinics offer everything from acupuncture to counseling for little to no cost.

"The campus health clinic isn't as exciting as access to a swimming pool or recreation area but it can have an enormous impact on general wellbeing," says University of Oregon alum Chris Grow. "It's a tremendous resource for STD tests, ... vaccinations, and general health concerns. They're also useful for getting a pulse on what viruses are going around campus."

[Find out what the Affordable Care Act means for college students.]

As colleges become smoke and tobacco free, health centers are also aiming to help students who want to quit smoking, says Paula Staight, director of health promotions at the University of Oregon, which gives students free nicotine patches or gum to help them kick their habit.

2. Technology: Computer labs and campus-wide wireless services are now commonplace at most colleges and universities, but there are other tech services available to students at many schools.

At the University of Iowa, for example, the ITS Help Desk will troubleshoot students' computer issues and resolve software or operating-system problems. For most repairs, the cost is covered by the university's mandatory technology fee.

[Discover new options for free online courses.]

Many colleges and universities also offer software such as anti-virus programs or Microsoft Office to students either free or deeply discounted.

3. Transportation: Students at urban schools often rely on public transportation for their campus commute, and some colleges charge a transportation fee that subsidizes transit system passes.

[Freshmen: Learn how to start college out on the right foot.]

University of Wisconsin--Madison's bus pass fee helps pays for on-campus bus and safe-ride services, but also gives students a pass for all bus routes on the Madison Metro Transit System.

Students at Amherst College in Massachusetts also get free access to the public bus system, which connects them to other area colleges--University of Massachusetts--Amherst, Hampshire College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke College--and nearby towns.

Transportation services can also help students get off campus. Students at the University of California--San Diego can take advantage of a free airport shuttle during school breaks. Grinnell College in rural Iowa offers a similar service to its students, transporting them to the nearest airport, as well as downtown Chicago, at a discounted rate.

At the University of Texas--Austin, the Texas Express offers weekend shuttles with nonstop service to Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Round-trip tickets range from $40.50 to $55 for UT students and staff, and the Express typically offers two drop-off points in each city.

Students seem to be big fans of the Texas Express, as most weekend shuttles fill up well in advance, says Josh Cook, assistant director of communication at UT--Austin.

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