This week, editor Ashley Meza vents about hidden fees that come along with attending a tuition-free semester at Pacific.
In September of 2020, Pacific released a new program called the Tuition-Fee Semester program that offered undergraduate students the opportunity to take advantage of an extra semester with tuition covered immediately following the semester of their graduation, as long as they were full time during the 2020-2021 school year. It’s a pretty rare opportunity for a college to offer to pay your tuition for a semester. I was excited when I first heard about it and signed up for it as soon as I could.
The enrollment process of the free tuition semester was simple, but I remember Spring 2021 asking different advisors and faculty about any information about the tuition-free semester. Each one always had the same answer: “I wish I knew more about it, I’m sorry that I don’t.”
Not everyone can be informed about every new program that comes around. However, if it was brought to my attention that fees were not included in the “free” part of the program, I would have been more prepared.
It was a shock to me when I opened my student account to see I had a payment due. When I asked at the registrar and business office, I was told that the fee was a flat rate and the program only pays for tuition. In retrospect, I should have put two and two together. Yet, having at least one sentence stating that fees were not included in the announcement would have saved me – and probably many other students – financial trouble.
To be clear, my issue is not with Pacific not paying those fees. I understand that institutions have to make money. My only issue is the lack of transparency when it comes to helping students be prepared about their finances. On the Tuition-Free Semester webpage frequently asked questions link, the fifth question down actually does mention that fees are not covered. One downside of this program is that students would not be eligible to receive assistance through financial aid or Pacific grants because tuition was already being covered and, in my case, already graduated. If those facts were clearly stated in the official announcement of the Tuition-Free Semester instead of buried, I could have been able to plan my finances more clearly.
Transparency regarding the fees would not have likely affected student participation. I would have still enrolled despite the fees not being covered. Getting your tuition paid is a fantastic opportunity that I am glad I was able to have, but it definitely would have helped to be properly informed so my personal finances could have been planned accordingly. — Ashley Meza