Starting this semester, certain service learning (SL) designated courses at Miami University will cost students an extra $50.
The added fee was approved by the board of trustees to offer the services provided by Miami’s Office of Community Engagement and Service (OCE&S) and to expand the office, according to Monica Ways, director of the OCE&S.
“SL is a new formal initiative that was started in 2009,” Ways said. “There was no designated funding for SL courses, and they show a lot of promise.”
Only courses that use OCE&S resources will add the $50 fee. Most of the SL-designated courses do not require the fee because the professors who teach the courses do not need the coordination, support or transportation services of the office, Ways said.
Ways said the fee may be waived for students who cannot afford the price.
According to Ways, SL is a learning approach that takes students out of the classroom and into the community. Students work at volunteer projects that are selected for their educational impact.
The public relations in strategic and mass communications capstone, taught by Clinical Faculty Member Bill Brewer, is one of the courses affected by the new fee.
Brewer’s course works with the Talbert House in Cincinnati, a social service non-profit organization. The students create a public relations plan, which has been successful with each client the capstone has worked with.
“I understand why people are doing it, but I was a little surprised,” Brewer said of the fee.
Brewer said he received an e-mail toward the end of fall semester telling professors teaching SL classes the fee would be implemented for OCE&S courses. He has received no complaints from students regarding the cost.
“This is not a question about the importance of service learning,” Brewer said. “The question is how do we fund it?”
For some students, the added cost to use the facilities of the OCE&S for an SL course is not an issue.
Miami senior Kelly Harrington took Ted Wagenaar’s sociology capstone during the fall semester. She worked at Oxford’s Community Choice Pantry for part of the class.
“If I hadn’t had taken the class, I wouldn’t have volunteered, it was a great experience and I still continue working there,” she said.
Harrington said she was shocked by the added fee.
“Fifty dollars is steep for the office’s services,” she said. “They didn’t provide me with a list of hours that I worked and there were often mix-ups with my schedule.”
Harrington said some students may not take an SL course if there is an added fee.
“I understand times are tough, but the university shouldn’t charge people to volunteer,” she said.