UNC eyes charging students for personal online use

Posted October 19, 2011

— For college students who grew up with the Internet and have spent countless hours surfing the Web and interacting via social media outlets, the thought of paying for time online is as foreign as a rotary phone.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill might soon make such an expense a harsh reality for its students, however.

A committee of UNC administrators and students looked for the past year at the costs of operating the campus computer network, which has until now been paid for by fees from people who purchase phone lines from the university.

Mike Barker, UNC's chief technology officer, said students now make up a smaller percentage of campus phone lines but account for a growing chunk of network usage.

"The basic principle here is just trying to be fair to all of our constituents," Barker said of the proposed Internet fee for students.

Students immediately panned the idea, saying they already pay enough in tuition and fees to cover their Internet usage.

"We are already paying for a lot of the other fees, like library fees, different dorm fees and stuff like that, and I already thought that was included," sophomore Sarah Clover said.

"With the tuition hikes already, it doesn't seem very fair to me," junior Mike Mohr said.

"I just don't think we should have to pay for Internet. We are going to school here. We are using it most of the time for school purposes," freshman Alexa Lazarus said.

Computer use, campus technology UNC students criticize the idea of paying for Internet use

UNC doesn't want to charge students for using the Internet for academics, only for personal usage like Facebook, online gaming and streaming video, Barker said. Trying to determine what's personal and what's for class is difficult, though, he said.

A student could be downloading movies from Netflix, for example, to watch for a class assignment. So, Barker said officials plan to consult with student government.

The committee that suggested the Internet fee estimated that at least a third of student usage is personal, which would mean a fee of $40 to $60 a year for each student.

"I think it's going to be way too hard to actually figure out what Internet usage is personal," Lazarus said, adding that 80 percent of her online time is for classwork.

"Probably 70 percent of my Internet usage is, like, going to school and things that I have to do in the first place," Clover said. "I would say it just depends on the person, so it would be hard to see where that boundary is."

Barker said officials plan to evaluate what existing technology fees are used for to determine if they could be shifting to cover network maintenance costs. If UNC does institute an Internet fee for students, university funds would cover the remainder of the network costs.

"Are they going to have a separate fee for garbage disposals and things like that?" Mohr asked. "It just doesn't make sense."


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  • mountainlover Oct 20, 2011

    Fayncmike: How was it monitored? Were there dorms at Fayetteville Tech? What size is their student body? Personally, I like the idea! At a school the size of UNC, monitoring would have to be done on-line and several employees would have to be paid to do that.

  • mountainlover Oct 20, 2011

    There are not that many students whose parents pay their tuition anymore, at least not at my university. 80% of our students receive some form of financial aid. A lot of that aid is loans. If it were me, I would not want to increase my loan indebtness enough to get my money's worth to play games; however, you may be right. I am near retirement, owe nothing on my credit cards, and have saved a lot of money. I am not from the "entitlement" generation. There is one thing that I will bet you a paycheck on: if a group of these students could not get registered or if their semester's grades did not get processed due to the computers being slow (caused by a slow network), you would never hear the end of the screaming and crying. They want to play games and want what they want on time but they do not want to have to pay one cent extra to get it.

  • fayncmike Oct 20, 2011

    "I work at a university and faculty, staff, and students are all on the campus computer network. The problem that we have is that at certain times of the year (and these times are very predictable), students are playing games on the computer. The computers of the faculty and staff slow down so much that it is difficult to get our work done in a timely manner. If students were charged for computer usage, there would be less of the game-playing. Due to the cutbacks in personnel, faculty and staff do not have time to be on the network playing games. This may give some insight into why UNC is considering such a proposal.

    When I was taking some classes at Fayetteville Tech. computer use was monitored. If anyone used them improperly, sooner or later, they were caught out and punished. That system seemed to work quite well.

  • TheBullCity Oct 20, 2011

    The proposal is to reallocate existing technology fees, not to increase fees.

  • dldobbins Oct 20, 2011

    When your parents pay your tuition along with the fee for the internet service, do you really think the students are going to "slow down the game playing"? I don't. I think they will just feel like they need to get their money's worth or will feel justified in using the computer for personal pleasure during those hours. I think there is a better way to "shift" the times students are messing around on the computer so that it isn't during those peak hours.

  • mountainlover Oct 20, 2011

    For those who know little about state budgets, money cannot be moved from salaries to equipment. So the problem still remains that the campus computer network is paid for by fees from those who purchase phone lines from the university. The increased use of cell phones by students has reduced the number of them purchasing landline phones from the university. Students account for a large chunk of computer usage. If UNC is like the campus that I work on, much of this usage is playing games during peak work times for faculty and staff. The playing of games overloads the network and slows computers down to the point where some of the work does not get done in a timely manner. Charging students for computer usage should (thoretically at least) slow down the game-playing. Faculty, staff, and students are all on the same campus network.

  • kikinc Oct 20, 2011

    storcheim-the internet IS a need now. And it was when I graduated from State in 2003. I took an ethics class just to be told the first day that it was going to be taught online. I just went back to school this semester, and my entire course is online. And no, not materials I can just go print from a magazine. They are websites, many of them, that are referenced within my course. I wouldn't be able to pass the class without the internet.

  • pringlzspaz20 Oct 20, 2011

    Are they going to likewise charge guests to the University for internet usage? Or patrons of the library to use the computers there?

  • ICTrue Oct 20, 2011

    What do these kids expect for $30K a year? Geez. The college has to pay for more important things like the provost for institutional equity and diversity....LOL

    My only recommendation to them would be to hold a rally, yeah thats it, a rally.

  • uGek010 Oct 20, 2011

    Internet now-a-days IS a need; that is if you want to stay ahead or even just to stay current. If you want to live in the stone age, then yeah it would become a nice to have and not necessary. I mean just look at what you are doing right now...feeding your information thirst online...can you do the same offline in the same way with same value and degree?