Local News

Convenience Will Cost at Public Universities

Posted August 2, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— It is tuition time for thousands of parents and students in theUNC system. This year, the cost is going up even more if you plan to pay with plastic.

State universities are now allowed to charge students a fee for the convenience of paying tuition with a credit card. You can expect to see more schools doing the same. State lawmakerspassed a bill, giving the state's public universities the green light to recover costs they could not previously pass on to students.

Roger Patterson, UNC-Chapel Hill's vice chancellor of finance, says it is a measure to save money.

"The last fiscal year, we collected over $25 million through the use of credit cards, and the credit card companies charge a fee with that, and the fees total over a half-million dollars," he says.

UNC-CH charges an extra 2 percent for processing credit cards.N.C. State Universitycharges a flat $50 fee each time someone uses a credit card.

NCSU parent Carolyn Szabo got a notice in the mail about the fee.

"Over four years, that's $400. That could probably pay for books for a semester," she says.

The schools are diligent about alerting credit card users to the fee. For Szabo, the fee is the price of convenience.

"It's just easier to call them up and give them a charge card number, and you have a month to figure out where the money's coming from," she says.

There is no extra fee for writing checks, and cash is always welcome at university cashiers' offices.

The UNC system used to budget extra money for the credit card companies' fees, but with the new law in effect, that cash is being put toward academic programs.