Oh, college. The well-worn brick walkways, the professors with articulated accents and tweed blazers, dorm parties at impressively low decibel levels, and of course, your pocketbook's very favorite, the fees.

Remember the glory days of free-to-you education? Free chemistry textbooks, lice checks in the nurse's office, the rigors of gym class dodgeball and square dance. Then, young scholar, you got to college and were suddenly struck with righteous indignation to the tune of, “I actually have to pay for that?”

Yes, Western is still a public institution but with the growing trend in lowering state support for schools the costs of running these hallowed halls have shifted away from Olympia and back to the university.

Lucky for you, this translates into higher tuition and service fees for students. Now, you probably didn't think that this whole college business would be cheap in the first place, but most students are unaware of the wide range of costs tacked on with their tuition payment.

But here's a little secret: these fees are actually there for reasons other than the development of student debts. In fact, student fees are largely determined and evaluated by your fellow students and serve a wide range of purposes.

“Student fees are either initiated by students because it's something they want or they're heavily involved in the process so they can monitor and help determine how those fees are used on a continuing basis,” Linda Beckman, Western director of budget and administration, explained.

Beckman said this heavy level of student representation in the fees process provides students with the advantages of more direct involvement and control over specific services, such as recreation, or particular topics, such as renewable energy. The result?

“Added fees have lately all come from student initiative,” Beckman said. “For example, with the recreation fee, it was put to a student vote and 76% voted in favor to build the facilities.”

It's also important to note that the cost of student fees isn't generated with some malicious calculator aimed at your bank account—fees are based solely on the cost of running the programs for which they are intended, Beckman said. In fact, contrary to popular opinion the university has an internal policy to limit fees, she said and the majority of fee increases is capped by the most recent hike in tuition costs, so that fees can only be raised to meet the rate at which tuition is rising.

Let's just take a moment to explore the more popular fees. (The quotes are from the 2000-2001 Washington State Tuition and Fee Report as provided by the Higher Education Coordinating Board. It's available through the University Planning and Budgeting Office.)

The Services and Activities Fee:

Nebulously defined as “fees charged to all students … for the express purpose of funding student activities and programs,” the funding from your Services and Activities fee helps to shape and fund those essential activities that comprise your Western experience as a student. The Services and Activities fee helps run the residence halls, dining halls and student activity facilities, as well as the administration behind the Associated Students and its clubs and programs. This fee also provides support to important student activities in areas as varied as theatre arts, music, student publications, campus recreation, and intercollegiate athletics.

Technology Fee:

At one point in time, you may have pulled together a good presentation with some Crayola crayons and a decent costume, but now the technological expectations of your scholarly output have understandably grown—not that those crayon skills won't still come in handy. The Technology Fee helps to ease some of the pressure off your shoulders, by providing students with their own e-mail and Web accounts, access to the Internet and computer software, as well as multimedia work stations and computer labs.

Health Services Fee:

This fee helps to pay for the wide range of clinical services the Student Health Center provides: check-ups, testing, referrals, you name it. Don't hesitate to call them up or swing by to take advantage of these resources. Soon enough, you'll graduate and health care will be in short supply and high demand.

Renewable Energy Fee:

This fee puts some money where Western's environmentally conscious mouth is. Recently added and totally initiated by students, the Renewable Energy Fee is to be used for the sole purpose of purchasing renewable energy “to substantially reduce or eliminate the University's use of electricity generated by traditional sources.” And who says that young people are apathetic?

Student Transportation Fee:

Here's the real new kid on the block. This past April, students voted with nearly 80% approval to pass the referendum that instituted this $25 fee. The new Student Transportation Fee will provide every student with a Whatcom Transit Authority bus pass and increase the availability of late night bus shuttles after WTA service ends. Keeping in tradition with the student management of fees, if things work out well, this new service will be back to student vote for renewal in five years.