Encourage University to make course costs known earlier
February is the final month for undergraduate students to drop a class without a mark of withdrawal on their transcripts. Ideally, students will decide which classes to drop or keep based upon future goals, compatibility and interest. However, some students will be forced to make their decisions based upon unexpected strain on their finances that comes with taking a certain class. Others will have to resign themselves to additional costs as they take courses required for their chosen majors and minors. These circumstances occur because many faculty members do not inform students beforehand of the class materials that need to be purchased for the course.
In light of these difficulties, this board urges the University to make transparent the estimated cost of all course materials before the registration period, such that students may make informed decisions that will allow them to make the most of their college experience.
Additional fees in a course come in many forms, from textbook expenses to subscriptions to online resources. Many courses do not list textbooks prior to the beginning of the semester, and courses such as Intro to Microeconomics make use of Macmillan’s Sapling Learning, which costs about $40. It is a fundamental part of the course, as homework assignments are completed through the system. Meanwhile, several introductory science courses make use of Top Hat, an online system which allows students to engage with a lecture through online polls and multiple-choice questions. Although Top Hat’s usefulness is highly debatable, its price can also be steep for students struggling financially.
According to the Top Hat website, a student may subscribe for one term for $26, a year for $48, or four years for $75. These may not be exorbitant prices, but they can act as limiting factors for many students. In addition to an immediate monetary burden, students learning about such pricing systems after registering for a course can limit their educational choices moving forward. Flexibility in major and minor combinations, as well as the opportunity to explore different fields, is one of Brandeis University’s appeals. However, a student who joins an introductory course to explore a possible interest, only to discover an additional cost they had not accounted for, may be put off from their academic curiosity.
Should the University make estimates of course costs readily available prior to the registration period, either through required posting of syllabi or as a listing under the official schedule-making website, students would be granted the ability to truly take responsibility for their own academics and better prepare for their time and eventual graduation at Brandeis. If students know the costs of their desired courses, they could also seek other sources of income or financial assistance in advance so that they can make the most of their university experience.