University of Colorado sophomore Anne Salter pays a mandatory $400 construction fee for four new campus buildings, but she's never been inside them.
She pays another $177 in activity fees for the recreation center, which she doesn't use.
"I don't like it, but it's what you've come to expect," said Salter, an integrative physiology major who transferred from the Metropolitan State College of Denver and is paying for her education with grants and loans. "We have to pay to be on a campus that gives us more than just an education. It's about being able to interact with your peers."
While some university leaders say growing student fees are needed to give students a true college experience, others are concerned the fees are being used to essentially raise tuition.
Regent Tom Lucero, a Republican, has pressed the board not to look at tuition alone during budget discussions -- but to factor in the larger "total cost of attendance."
"It's always been a concern of mine that we are using fees, and room and board and other avenues, to further fund the university on the backs of students and tuition-paying parents, and we're not being transparent."
Students on the Boulder campus pay $1,486 a year in mandatory fees -- funding everything from their university e-mail accounts to police patrols near student-funded buildings, such as the University Memorial Center.
In the past five years, mandatory student fees have soared 60 percent -- growing at a faster pace than in-state tuition rates, which have increased 48 percent in the College of Arts and Sciences in the same time period.
Regent Michael Carrigan, a Democrat, said that without student fees, the recreation and student centers, along with other amenities, would be absent from the Boulder campus.
"Student fees create a community, and it doesn't happen for free," Carrigan said.
Students pay several types of fees. Course-specific fees can pay for supplies, equipment or guest speakers for classes. There are administrative fees, like the annual $18 fee to fund the campus' Career Services office and a one-time $70 fee to join the Alumni Association.
There are also student activity fees, which fund offices including the Environmental Center, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Center and other groups that bring in speakers. Student government leaders kept those fees flat over the last year, acknowledging the financial strain on students in the recession.
CU financial chief Kelly Fox will be releasing a report next month that shows the policies surrounding the various fees, how the money is being spent and whether the fees are meeting their original purposes.
Among the largest fees billed to students this year is a capital-construction fee that helps pay for the business school renovation; new law building; the ATLAS technology hub; and the Visual Arts Complex, which is now being built.
Faced with slashed state funding, the student union approved a capital-construction fee in 2004, providing money for the four large-scale projects on the campus, and it ratcheted up to its maximum annual amount of $400 for the first time this year.
Emily Tyson, a freshman math major, has yet to take classes or study in any of the three buildings that are completed and funded partially by her student fees.
"It's a sacrifice you have to make to go to the school that you want to go to," she said from inside the engineering building Friday.
Bronson Hilliard, spokesman for the campus, said there's a broad consensus that students shouldn't pay fees for construction projects in the future.
He said the campus uses fees sparingly.
"We're not in a position to be able to have people pay only for the services they use," he said. "You'd have to have a credit card machine outside of every building."
The regents, at their board meeting in Aurora last week, approved a measure that requires a student-wide vote on any future projects that require long-term debt.
The capital-construction fee was approved by student-government leaders, which concerns Lucero.
But Regent Joe Neguse, a Boulder Democrat and CU law student, said the new measure violates shared governance and is unnecessary because regents are already required to approve student fees.
Tillie Bishop, a Republican from Grand Junction, said he's open to students voting to tax themselves.
"I do have problems when fees are assessed and the students aren't brought into play and consideration," he said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or email@example.com.