Fees, By Any Other Name, Remain Fees

By R. Braiden Trapp

Leave it to Northern New Mexico College and its creative accounting to concoct a “tuition” scheme that incorporates fees. While Northern’s vice president for creative problem-solving Ricky Serna did his best soft shoe selling the idea to the regents April 2, we were left wondering if they could actually sneak this by the state Higher Education Department.

We were shocked regent Michael Branch dared to question whether this would pass the Department’s smell test. Branch usually is the one hatching these ideas, not poo-pooing them.

Branch wanted to know what assurances the regents had that the Department wouldn’t see through Ricky’s scheme and say, “Hey, you guys are hiding student fees, we’re not paying that.”

Serna had some handy advice. “I want to warn you about asking for their blessing because sometimes when you ask, you relinquish the power as regents to set the cost of enrollment.”

Ricky is no dummy. There are two messages in that statement. The first follows the old adage, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”

The second was a play for regents’ egos. Ricky was telling them they’re the boss, not the Department. You don’t want to give up your vast control of this fiefdom to the Department do you? Be the powerful leaders you are and make this decision without asking the state to agree to it.

Of course the problem isn’t the state or the regents. It’s the lottery scholarship itself. There are myriad rules attached to having your tuition paid by it. One financial aid manager said tuition and fees would have to be separated. That makes sense. Then the scholarship will pay the tuition.

It’s clear he’s on a campaign, selling his idea in classrooms to students. Judging by the comments made online after last week’s story about the ruse, students aren’t buying it.

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