Film department proposes $150 surcharge

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UNLV’s Film Department is proposing to its students a $150 per credit hour differential fee for all 300-400 level film courses. In response to the recent proposal, film students have expressed their discontent with the increase in tuition stating that the fee is excessive and unjustified. 

The proposal was announced to film students in an email from Heather Addison, the film department’s current chair. In the email, Addison noted the vibrant future that the incurred fee would support.

“The advantage of the change is that differential fees would allow us to provide a wide range of opportunities and benefits for students in our program, enabling us to reach a new level of excellence,” said Addison. “This would mean that 300 and 400-level courses in the film major would have a fee of $150 per credit hour.”

In the email, Addison noted that the fee would fund a long list of resources for its film students. The list reads as follows: Production funds for student films, access to cutting-edge equipment and technology, updated facilities, rented studio space to build standing sets for productions, stronger industry connections including mentorship and internship opportunities, high-profile expert guest speakers, funds for entering student films in festivals and competitions, enhanced travel opportunities in the United States and around the world, student scholarships, more funding for departmental awards and competitions, special events, expert workshops and faculty and staff in more areas of specialty, such as animation, production design, and VFX.

Addison continued her line of reasoning also noting that two majors within the college of fine arts, architecture and graphic design also have differential fees. 

While the fee hasn’t taken effect, the film department is currently seeking input from its students and encourages them to attend drop-in meetings to voice their support. 

Faith Nault, a current honors college student double majoring in film and criminal justice, disapproves of the fee proposal. 

“My film classmates as well as I, are deeply angered by the idea of UNLV film adding excessive fees to our classes,” said Nault. “A number of my friends have mentioned the most recent purchase of an LED Wall that no one seemed to have asked for. With this purchase, many have questioned where that money came from and why all of a sudden the UNLV Film administration is asking their students to pay more when it seems like they have plenty of money to make a purchase of this nature. If the fees did go into effect how do we know they would actually go into benefiting our students with what we need?”

At universities across the nation, program-based fees are common given the lack of funding departments can compete for. Incurring course fees often allows departments to provide more resources to students and expand class sizes. According to Pew, some students show that students have sometimes been deterred from choosing majors with differential fees because of the cost associated with it. 

According to an article posted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UNLV started adopting the differential tuition model back in 2010 in an effort to expand programs at the university to enhance the student experience. One of the most popular differential fees on UNLV’s campus is the $159 nursing undergraduate student fee and the $239 graduate student fee. According to the Review-Journal, these fees were established in 2012 under the guidance of Neal Smatresk, the former university president at the time. 

Historically, students at UNLV have always opposed student fee increases, surcharges and differential program fees. Given the financial burden it poses, a common theme during scenarios where fees are proposed is students disapproving of the charge. An example of this is the petition students created in 2020 against a $6 undergraduate student surcharge and $8 graduate student surcharge. The online petition attracted more than 2,000 signatures at the time but had no effect on deterring the fee from being imposed.

A similar petition was also created for the $50 student life facilities fee back in 2020 when students were upset with being charged for services that were discontinued because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the generated student outcry about this fee charge, students still had to bear the cost of paying for a gym service they didn’t have access to. 

Nault told the Free Press that she hopes the film department will take student concerns seriously.

“My fear is the excessive fees will cause students to leave the film department altogether or that people will not enroll in film classes,” said Nault. “I hope that UNLV Film will hear and listen to their students that have strongly opposed this proposal since it was announced.”

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