Being a broke Kean student just got more expensive

Emily Filardo, a Kean Faculty Senate representative to the board sits to the far right. Board of Trustees Student Representative Alternate Christian Meyers, second from right  sits next to student representative Abbey Gallego. May 9, 2016. Credit: Rebecca Panico

Emily Filardo, a Kean Faculty Senate representative to the Board of Trustees, sits to the far right. Sitting next to her are student representatives on the Board, Christian Meyers, an alternate, and Abby Gallego. May 9, 2016. Credit: Rebecca Panico

By Rebecca Panico | Published May 11, 2016

Kean University’s Board of Trustees voted Monday to increase late fees and the cost to enroll in a tuition payment plan without any public discussion, though the adopted resolution omitted some important facts.

More: Read the full resolution here

The unanimous vote follows a state Comptroller’s report issued two weeks ago that asked Kean and two other state colleges to create clear, transparent guidelines for raising student fees. Kean was the only university that declined to comply, stating that the reasoning behind its fee increases are clear enough and laid out in the Trustees’ resolutions.

Under the newly approved resolution that takes effect July 1, if a student owes more than $200 to Kean and misses one payment, the university can charge a $50 late fee up to four times per semester – or up to $200. The Trustees vote increased the cost to enroll in a tuition payment plan from $25 to $40 starting in the spring 2017 semester.

The dates of when these fees will start were not in the resolution, and only learned after The Tower inquired about them after the meeting.

The late fees will “motivate” students to pay on time, the resolution said. The late fees will help recover administrative costs, follows “industry standards” and promotes “fair student accounting practices,” the two-page resolution said. Students can also apply for a one-time late fee waiver if they request it.

When the resolution went up for a vote, Emily Filardo – a Faculty Senate representative to the Trustees — yelled out “Discussion?” since she had no microphone. There was a moment of silence before a Trustees member yelled out, “No.”

The resolution was then passed unanimously, with four members absent at the May 9 meeting. (The next meeting will be June 27.)

More: Lawmaker calls for hearing looking into student fees following Comptroller report

Filardo has no voting power on the Board, and at a Board meeting in March she voiced concerns over the current format of the meetings. If she wants to speak during the meeting, she has to sign up for the public comments section, which has a three-minute limit, she said.

“No one had a chance to ask any questions,” Filardo said after the meeting. She said she couldn’t comment on the resolution because she “didn’t understand yet what it means.”

“It’s a democracy issue,” she emphasized, adding that if it weren’t for journalists covering meetings and asking additional questions, the public would never learn the details of what was passed.

Once the Trustees returned from their two-hour private session, The Tower approached the two student representatives that sit on the Board – Abby Gallego and Christian Meyers (an alternate, who is “non-voting”) — for clarification on the resolution that was just passed. They referred all questions to the university’s spokeswoman Margaret McCorry, who doesn’t sit on the Board and has no voting power.

Gellego said she did not vote on the late fee increase, since student representatives are not allowed to vote on “legal issues.”

The Tower approached three other Trustees– John Kean Jr., Linda Lewis, and Board Chair Ada Morell – and asked if they could elaborate on the resolution they just voted on.

Morell said she was “pressed for time” since the meeting was about to go back into session, but declined to talk to The Tower after the meeting. Kean Jr. said he doesn’t sit on the Finance Committee and referred all questions to Morell. Lewis referred all questions to either the university spokeswoman or the Board’s Executive Director Audrey Kelly.

After the meeting concluded, Kelly explained that these fees would kick in during the new fiscal year, which starts July 1. That information was not in the resolution.

Kelly also elaborated that Kean is looking to start collecting tuition in-house, and not through Tuition Management Systems (TMS), which is a company that allows students to pay for tuition and fees in monthly installments at afford.com. That information was not in the resolution.

TMS will be in place for the fall 2016 semester, but the university plans to put a new billing system in place for the spring 2017 semester, said McCorry, the university’s spokeswoman, a day after the meeting. That information was not in the resolution.

The resolution did not explain why Kean was looking for a new billing system. McCorry said that Kean is seeking a new billing and payment system that will allow students more “self-service options and a better online experience that is intuitive, sophisticated, and comprehensive for most student accounting services all under one umbrella.”

TMS currently charges a $35 late fee each time a payment deadline is missed for students enrolled in their payment plan system.  As of fall 2016, TMS will no longer be assessing any late fees, McCorry explained. Kean will charge $50 on any account that is delinquent, whether the student is on a payment plan or not, she added. This information came two days after the Trustees meeting.

“Currently, the search for a new billing and payment system is underway and the University has advertised a request for proposals,” McCorry wrote in an email. “In the meantime, we have sought from the Board the approval to be able to create these new fees in preparation for the transition to the new system and to be able to collect the fees directly.”

Rebecca Panico may be reached at panicore@kean.edu. Follow The Tower on Twitter@KeanTower. Find The Tower on Facebook.

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