Some Pa. State University Students Balk at Schools' Activity Fees

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Although Samantha Horn keeps an eye on the weather, she's not a member of the meteorology club.

She does not know how to waltz, so she has never considered joining the Ballroom and Latin Dance Club.

And the Young and Gifted Gospel Choir and Pro Golf Management Club are not even on her radar.

So Horn's not pleased that her annual $540 student activity fee at California University of Pennsylvania goes to support groups she did not even know existed.

"There are way too many fees," said Horn, 19, of Arnold City. "I'm not too fond of paying for a club I've never heard of or belong to."

Student activity fees have been a point of contention on college campuses for years. Lawsuits proceeding as far as the Supreme Court have challenged whether the fees can fund political or religious groups.

Records from Pennsylvania's 14 state universities show the fees — ranging from $235 at Kutztown University to $900 at Mansfield University — are spent on everything from the Paintball Club and the Paranormal Society to political speakers and fitness and leisure centers.

Such fees are drawing more scrutiny from cash-strapped students struggling to pay for school as grants and loans dry up.

Last year, New Jersey's Rutgers University was in the national spotlight when its student board was criticized for paying MTV's "Jersey Shore" star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi $32,000 from its student activity fees for two hour-long question-and-answer sessions.

Polizzi earned $2,000 more than Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, who gave the commencement address last year.

One New Jersey lawmaker, Republican Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, introduced legislation requiring students to "opt in" to pay student activity fees. The bill died at the end of the legislative session last year.

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