(WSVN) - If you don’t get something, you don’t pay for it, right? Well, not during a pandemic and not on college campuses. That has students asking about pricey fees for things they can’t get. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Louis and Melanie are brother and sister, both are Florida International University students and because of COVID-19, both are taking classes online from their home.

Louis Correa, upset at college fees: “I’m going for my bachelor’s in science and biology.”

Melanie Correa, taking classes online: “I’m actually a senior. This is my last semester.”

College is expensive, and the Correas believe their online learning is more expensive than it should be.

Melanie Correa: “I think they’re overcharging us for things that we’re not using.”

Louis Correa: “Like, for spring, my course fees were $25, and now it’s $200.”

Even though they are learning from home, they have to pay a parking fee.

Melanie Correa: “We’re not parking our cars over there. I don’t understand why we’re being charged for transportation fee or garage fee.”

There is an athletic fee, even though all athletic programs have been shut down, and Louis pays several lab fees.

Louis Correa: “You have to pay for being in the lab, which, to me, that’s completely pointless because we’re not using any of the stuff. We’ll be all online, everything’s distance learning.”

There is a fee for taking classes online called distance learning.

There is an activity fee, even though there are no activities for the Correas on campus. The list goes on and on.

Melanie Correa: “I think that it should be stopped. We shouldn’t have to be overcharged, especially what’s going on now.”

Louis says he contacted school officials about the eight fees he is paying.

Louis Correa: “They say that there’s a shortfall in revenue because they’re not getting money back from the rentals on campus and food that they sell on campus, so they’re looking for a balance.”

And so, do students have to pay for things they cannot get or cannot use, Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Yes, while there is no law written to regulate expenses during a pandemic, a college or university can charge fees for fixed expenses. In other words, charge fees to cover loans they have taken out to build a garage or buy lab equipment or build a basketball court.”

While we are on colleges, a University of Florida student is having to pay for a dorm in Gainesville, even though he is living in South Florida taking his classes online. Is that legal?

Howard Finkelstein: “If the dorm is opened and the student chooses to stay home, they have to pay for the dorm they signed up for, but if the dorm is shut down due to the pandemic, then the student does not have to pay for it.”

When a Miami restaurant closed, they told their chef, “Don’t take another job. When we reopen, you will still be our chef.” They recently reopened and told him, “Nevermind, we hired someone else.” Is that promise binding?

Howard Finkelstein: “Since Florida is an at-will state, meaning you can be fired for no reason at all, the courts will not give you money for a broken promise. In other words, they don’t have to hire him back, even though they promised to. Next time, if they make a promise, get it in writing, and then, you can go after them.”

Louis Correa: “At least reduce it to the point where the students can pay for it.”

Louis is not giving up, and the young student has started a petition to get the school to drop the fees they’re charging all the students.

Louis Correa: “I want the fees to go down for everybody. It’s not fair at all.”

Now, if you want to sign Louis’ petition to FIU, and if you want to see how the school explains the reasoning for many of the fees they are charging students, the links to both are down below.

If you have a problem you cannot resolve, a COVID question you want to get answered for free, get in touch with us. We are here for you.

Louis’s Petition to Lower Fees

FIU Explanation of Fees

Thank you for reaching out. We do not discuss individual students’ situation but I can tell you that fees have not increased. Here is an explanation of fees, per your request:

At FIU, we understand that some of our students and their families have questions about fees. We hope the explanations below help answer your questions related to fees, which fund important services at the university.

Distance Learning fee: There is no Distance Learning fee associated with classes being taught remotely because of the pandemic. These classes were designed originally to be taught face-to-face and are now being delivered remotely to allow students to continue their studies from home. Many of the remote classes still have students and faculty meeting via videoconferencing on specific days and times.

A Distance Learning fee of $30 per credit is assessed only for online courses, which are courses that are designed and developed specifically to be delivered online. Faculty designing the courses leverage dedicated online instructional designers and educational technologies reserved for fully online courses. Students access the course 24/7. The Distance Learning fee funds the infrastructure and team that helps deliver these courses.

Parking fee: The parking fee helps pay for the garages, which cannot be built using state dollars, and covers the debt payments on the garages as well as costs associated with operations, maintenance and repairs.

Student Health fee: These funds pay for several services that have remained open, continue to assist students remotely and provided virtual engagement opportunities such as Student Health Clinic, Counseling and Psychological Services, Victim Empowerment Program, Disability Resource Center, and Healthy Living Program. If you need assistance, please call for an appointment.
For a Telehealth appointment please call 305-348-8385 for MMC and 305-919-5620 for BBC. For the safety and welfare of all, please call ahead. The on-campus pharmacy is also open. Please call 305-348-0276 to refill or transfer your prescription.

Athletics fee: Even though all athletic programs have been suspended temporarily in accordance with NCAA rules, there are significant fixed costs associated with the athletics program, including student-athlete scholarships, staffing, operations and maintenance of our sports facilities, including the FIU Football Stadium which was constructed with proceeds from the issuance of bonds that must be repaid. We are hopeful that intercollegiate athletic competitions will resume later this fall as soon as conditions allow it.

Activity fee: This fee supports the Graham and Wolfe centers, and Wellness and Recreation Centers and funds student organizations, campus life and helps pay costs that the university is required to pay even though students are learning remotely. During this time, programing such as virtual fitness classes, Life Skills Series, Club Fair, Greek Information Sessions and special speakers are facilitated through this fee. The Wellness and Recreation centers will be open this fall, with physical distancing and other measures in place.

Materials and Supplies/Equipment Use fees: For Fall 2020 courses that require materials and supplies, the fee will be charged. Supplies will be made available to the students for those courses that are remote and require the supplies.

Maydel Santana
Associate Vice President

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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