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The final fee

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A new $75 graduation fee could be implemented as soon as Friday for graduate students submitting Master’s theses and Ph. D. dissertatioins.

At the Board of Regents meeting tomorrow, officials from the Graduate School will request approval for a $75 graduate-degree fee that would be charged to all graduate students when they file for graduation. While there was no fee before, the proposed fee will go toward administrative services related to graduation and will help alleviate cuts the school sustained last year.

The fee will help fund these changes to the system and will go towards developing a system for electronically submitting dissertations and theses. Electronic submission of these documents is quickly becoming the national standard, said Gerald J. Baldasty, the dean of the Graduate School, and the UW has not yet made the switch due to lack of essential funding.

Indeed, this fiscal year the Graduate School lost $900,000 in budget cuts. At the three UW campuses, about 3,300 students apply for graduation with a master’s or doctoral degree each year, so the graduate-degree fee would bring in about $250,000 for the Graduate School, which will be used largely to sustain and implement the new changes to graduation services.

In May 2009, the UW Internal Technology Audit reported that there were serious problems with the backup server for the Graduate School’s extensive technology network known as MyGradProgram. The audit discussed school’s inability to accept and process incoming admissions applications and to process graduations.

The fee would provide for services like reviewing graduation applications to certify that all requirements have been met, having individual consultations with master’s degree and doctoral candidates, operating the automated workflow process (the MyGradProgram) and implementing system enhancements.

“We don’t have the revenue to meet these needs, so that’s why we’re trying to do this,” Baldasty said. “This is a service; fees are for services.”

The university has spent about two years assessing the online graduation systems at other institutions and has to work now to implement similar services, Baldasty said.

“It’s time for us to do this, or else we’re going to fall way behind,” he said.

Baldasty pointed out that other universities, such as the University of Arizona and the University of Iowa, charge higher tuition than the UW and still require a similar fee for graduate-student services. However, Jake Faleschini, the Graduate Professional Student Senate president, isn’t sure that makes the fee ethical.

“It seems to me that this fee that would go towards something that is essential for graduate education, and if it is essential, in my opinion, this money should go through provost or tuition revenue,” Faleschini said. “There is precedent, but there isn’t precedent here at the university where no other departments have this sort of fee.”

Student Regent Ben Golden expressed similar concerns.

“While the benefits certainly outweigh the $75 cost, I am deeply concerned about the trend of new fees replacing costs previously covered by central operating funds,” Golden said in an e-mail to The Daily.

Provost Phyllis Wise said a fee would best cover the services because it increases transparency by linking the cost to specific activities. But despite this reasoning, Faleschini also worries that graduate students will perceive the fee as extortionate. Federal grants and other aid services that graduate students receive to help pay for their education will cover tuition charges, but they won’t cover additional fees.

“A graduate student is going to go through all of their time at UW and then get stopped at the gate and have to pay another 75 bucks,” he said. “I understand the bind that the grad school is in: They’re not going to be able to provide because their budget was so severely cut this year. I don’t blame the grad school; I blame the university.”

The fee could be implemented as soon as Friday, said Gary Quarfoth, the associate vice provost of Planning and Budgeting.

Quarfoth said in an e-mail to The Daily: “On the assumption that the Regents approve the new fee, it would go into effect immediately, i.e., any graduate student applying for graduation on or after Nov. 20.”

Reach reporter Katie McVicker at news@dailyuw.com.

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