Re-enrollment deposit dropped

Forrest Stewart, Staff Writer

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The Luther College administration will drop the annual student re-enrollment fee due to concerns regarding barriers to student enrollment. The decision was announced via email on Feb. 28.

“We write to announce effective immediately, the college will no longer charge the $325 continuing student enrollment deposit,” the email said. “Therefore there will no longer be a deposit required to participate in registration and room draw.”

Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric Runestad advocated for the change.

“[The idea to remove the re-enrollment fee] came about as we were trying to understand how to best support students in persisting through college,” Runestad said. “We discovered that this fee can be a real challenge for students, especially our lower-income students and students who have trouble making the deposit at this particular time of year. It was really in an effort to remove a barrier that gets in the way of students’ success.”

Runestad noted that the fee places additional burdens on students who might already be struggling financially.

“If you’re a student that’s having trouble making that [payment] and you don’t have an opportunity to be part of room draw, there’s an equity issue in that,” Runestad said. “We wanted to understand if we could solve that [problem] without creating other more significant challenges.”

According to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Kevin Kraus, the fee has faced criticism in the past from both students and faculty.

“There had been a couple staff offices over the years who had brought it up and said, ‘You know, kids complain about this one’,” Kraus said.

Runestad acknowledged that, when it existed, the fee did serve a purpose but he maintained that the change is warranted.

“[The fee] was a way to more accurately determine who’s going to be returning in the fall,” Runestad said. “However, its value over time has probably lessened. I think we have other ways of trying to get to that number through registration and room draw. It’s an institutional practice with a lower practical value and a higher threshold for impeding student persistence.”

According to Runestad, the decision was made after consultation with many different administrative departments.

“We involved lots of different [people] on campus to make sure we understood the implications of the change,” Runestad said. “This includes the Registrar’s Office, the Offices of Financial Services and Financial Aid, the Dean of Students Office, the Academic Dean’s Office, the Dean of Equity and Inclusion, and the Office of Admissions.”

Alexander Davis (‘19) is pleased with the change but he wishes it had been communicated earlier.

“The process seemed unorganized because an email was still sent out asking for a deposit before we found out the fee had been dropped,” Davis said. “With that being said, I’m happy the deposit has been dropped.”

Runestad said that while there are no additional changes to the student enrollment process currently planned, the administration is exploring further options.

“This work is ongoing,” Runestad said. “We’ve identified this look at structural inequities as one of the action items inside of the strategic plan. I certainly think there’s interest in [identifying inequities] and working to address the ones that we feel like we can.”

This change only affects the student re-enrollment fee; the deposit that prospective students pay to enroll at Luther will remain intact.

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