Students can’t make up shortfalls

As the economy continues its wobbling descent, people across the country are tightening their wallets and bracing for difficult times ahead. Kent State is no different.

In a message to the university community Friday, President Lester Lefton urged faculty and staff to find ways to save money: “In fact, it is nothing less than imperative that every university unit mirror the kind of changes that are occurring in most American families – from buying in bulk to postponing major purchases.

“I ask each of you to find immediate ways to cut costs, whether it’s sending an e-mail message instead of a printed letter or flier; arranging a teleconference instead of a trip; or simplifying or forgoing special events.”

Last week, the Bursar’s Office announced it found a way to save the university more than $1 million – switch to online billing and pass the credit card processing fee on to students. Previously, the university paid the fee itself.

According to the Bursar’s Office, the change not only saves money, it will be both more efficient and more environmentally friendly because it eliminates the use of paper bills.

But it also means that starting in December, students will pay an additional 2.9 percent for every credit card payment. So if an undergraduate student who is an Ohio resident were to charge his or her entire bill of $6,715 ($4,215 for tuition and $2,500 for room and board) to a credit card, he or she would also incur a processing fee of $194.73.

While it’s not a lot of money, it’s enough to make a mark for those already struggling to pay the bills. And while our calculations look at the extreme end of the equation, the billing change amounts to what could be considered a tuition increase.

It’s unfortunate that the university chose to make our lives a little more difficult in order to save some money, but there’s no denying that the switch has some merit.

It frees up an estimated $1 million for the university to invest in improving our education. And it’s not unheard of: Bowling Green State, Miami, Ohio, Toledo, Wright State and Cleveland State universities all have similar payment systems and fees.

With the statewide tuition freeze and poor economic climate, any extra money is helpful. And with a budget of $470,264,007 for this fiscal year, $1 million probably goes by pretty fast. We hope the savings are put to good use.

Everyone is going to have to make sacrifices this year, and we understand the billing change was necessary for the university to save some money. But students are just as much a part of Kent State as the buildings and President Lefton are, and our well-being should be considered as Kent State tightens its belt. We hope the university administration shares the responsibility and takes one for the team next time.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.