What's wrong with Student Fees?
Emory charges us significantly higher student fees than most other graduate schools charge their students. But we should think critically about why this practice exists at all; it is unusual for employees to have to pay their employer in order to work for them. We shouldn't let the widespread acceptance of a practice become its justification. In fact, the only reason this practice exists is so that our schools can arbitrarily place a higher number in our offer letters without, y'know, actually paying us more.
EmoryUnite! is calling on Laney's administration to eliminate our student fees, without reducing the funding provided to the LGSC and distributed among student groups. The lowest paid graduate workers ($24,000/year) receive less than a living wage (~$26,187) even before they have to pay student fees.
Despite the fact that the student fee amounts are written in our offer letters, they can be raised by Laney at will, and have been raised as recently as this year (August 2018). Despite the fact that many, if not most, grad workers live pay check to pay check (it's hard to save money when you don't earn a living wage) Laney did not see fit to inform students of the increase until the charges appeared on our bills (the month payment was due, unless we pay $60 to enroll in their payment plan or a $150 late fee). In the past, Laney has gone so far as to threaten international students with deportation for having outstanding balances on their account.
But our student fees pay for really important things, right?
Not entirely. The student activities fees fund essential groups that build Laney's community, and we would like to see their current funding levels maintained by Laney, without assessing a fee on graduate students.
(A full breakdown of the current fee schedule is here)
On the other hand...
The "Enrollment Fee" ($50/semester, including summer) is meaningless, and contradicts the notion that our Ph.D. is "fully funded."
The Athletic Fee ($142/$142/$55) is a burden on graduate students, especially given that there is no on-campus graduate student housing. Many of us live too far away to make Emory's gyms practical, and already pay to live in housing complexes with their own gym facilities. Some of the athletic fee also goes to fund undergraduate NCAA sports.
The "Mental Health Fee" ($80/$80/$80) pays for Emory's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). While we absolutely want all graduate workers to have access to mental health care, we already have better access to care through our Aetna insurance. CAPS limits its services to 10 sessions per student, which is for many mental health needs an insufficient clinical model, and means that we ultimately pay much more to see a CAPS therapist ($1200 for the possibility of 10 sessions) than we would to find a therapist through our health insurance ($18/session). There are even students in Laney's Clinical Psychology program who are forbidden from seeing CAPS therapists (because they share patients with and receive training and supervision from CAPS employees) but still have to pay this fee!
We are also charged a Computing Fee ($50/$50/$50).
It is only a one-time expense, but our transcript fee ($70) is significantly higher than the one paid, for example, by students at Duke ($40).