Why am I paying $50 to do my homework?

Hidden course fees piss me off
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by Angel Barker

When I sign up for classes, I make sure to see if there are required textbooks so I can budget what the post-tuition fees are going to be for each semester. However, one variable I did not take into consideration is instructors who make students pay for software to do their homework.

For my 100-level Human Biology course, the Student Center said there was no required text. However, once I had enrolled and the course began, to do the homework we had to pay for an “online and interactive homework platform,” a website that randomizes questions and gives you unlimited attempts to get the answer right. 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the unlimited attempts. However, I don’t love having to pay $50 to do my homework for one class. That $50 had to come out of my budget for food and gas. I had to pay $50 to pass the class, because the homework turned in using the software is 32.6% of the overall grade.

Why are instructors allowed to do this? Do they benefit from having us pay for that software? Or is it just more convenient for them? Either way, it is more than inconvenient for students. We are the ones having to front the money to literally just access homework questions.

Why couldn’t the polytechnic money help create a program supporting equitable access for students? Or just buying the necessary software? Why are these costs not disclosed before signing up for the class, like textbooks? These fees hurt students.

When I attended UC Davis, there was a program called Equitable Access. For $169 each quarter, undergraduate students were guaranteed all of their course materials, like textbooks (printed and digital), online softwares, lab manuals, and more. That program was helpful when planning what I was going to have to spend. There were no hidden class fees like what I’ve experienced this term.

Instructors like mine do not seem to care about how expensive it is to attend college. This is a basic general education course; a regular textbook and a Canvas multiple choice homework “quiz” would suffice. $50 may not seem like a lot of money. However for students like me who are paying their own way through school, it makes a larger impact that has a domino effect.

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