Paycheck Chronicles

MyCAA: Beware of those Fees

Yesterday, I went online to see if my final grades had posted yet.  I wasn't allowed to get into my account because there was a hold on it.  I called over to the college to discover that MyCAA had not paid the $20 fee for registration.  I had read something about not paying fees, but I was still a little unsure, so I called Military OneSource and, after some truly stupid questions, I was transferred to a MyCAA consultant.  She reminded me that registration fees weren't covered, but it was her phrasing that I found interesting (and possibly concerning):  "If it is on a separate line, we won't pay it."

Here's why I am concerned:  some colleges, particular larger universities, levy lots of little fees that can add up to a big number.  For example, at the University of Maryland (my alma mater, which is why I checked there), a student taking one class with a total in-state tuition of $819, would pay the following fees:

  • Technology Fee:  $32.75
  • Athletics:  $65.60
  • Shuttle Bus:  $39.93
  • Stamp Union Fee:  $68.07
  • Student Activity:  $15.75
  • Recreation Building:  $85.43
  • Performing Arts:  $17.13
  • Clean Energy Fund:  $1.00
  • Auxiliary Fees:  $13.28
For a whopping grand total of $338.94 in fees (for a generic major, not anything special like nursing or architecture).

First, I think these fees are absolutely ridiculous.  I knew they were high, I had no idea that they were so crazy high.  For purposes of this rant, however, I'm more concerned about the fact that the MyCAA program isn't set up to pay these fees.

Now, people who know me well have heard me say that we all need to be a little more appreciative of all the amazing programs that are benefiting military families, and that we are creating a situation where military spouses expect to have stuff given to them, and that we all need to buck up and be responsible for ourselves.  That said, the Department of Defense had the idea to create this MyCAA program, and it has been so poorly organized and implemented that there is little indication that it was thought through before it was launched.  (Which is odd, what with there being a pilot program and everything.  But I digress...)  If the DOD wants to offer assistance attaining educational goals, it needs to be a little more aware of what is going on in the academic world, including the mandatory and often large fees that go with pursuing higher education.

I understand that the DOD is trying to make the MyCAA program available to as many students as possible, and they need to stretch their financial resources.  I applaud the program directors for that.  However, I think that their policy to not pay fees is silly, confusing, and creating financial stress for the beneficiaries they are trying to help.

At the very least, the explanations on the MyCAA page need to be improved.  I spend all day reading and writing about this stuff, and I was still surprised.  I've heard other students, particularly in high-fee programs, who have discovered that they have a huge bill remaining at the end of the semester.  More clarity would be easy and the right thing to do.

Ideally, MyCAA would pay the fees that are a required part of taking the classes.  Not application fees, not graduation fees, not "I want to use the gym" fees, but fees that are directly and clearly tied to the tuition portion of the bill.

What do y'all think?

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