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The rising cost of higher education is a problem that goes beyond affordability. The value of many degrees is falling while the price to obtain those degrees continues to climb.

Across the country, higher education systems are jacking up student fees to pay for programs, services and new buildings. The mandatory fees are rolled into tuition payments and often turn into student loan debt.

As the Review-Journal’s Yesenia Amaro reported Monday, beginning in the fall of 2014, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas will have several new fees or amendments to existing fees. All undergraduate students enrolled at UNLV will pay a $25 academic success initiative fee, which replaces the $1 per credit student support activities undergraduate fee (the new fee has a shorter name, but a higher cost). In addition, upper-division engineering courses will include a $40 per credit fee, and graduate engineering courses will add $20 per credit. Students in the graphic design and media program will have to pay a $156.75 fee for upper-division courses.

Officials told Ms. Amaro the fees are needed to fund expanded student services, most notably tutoring and bringing students up to speed for college-level academics.

UNLV’s website notes that undergraduate students enrolled for the spring 2014 semester already face about $400 in fees ($100 more for new students), along with tuition of about $2,300, based on a 12-credit schedule. Although next fall’s new fees aren’t considered tuition increases, they might as well be. They’re piled into the final bill. They’re unavoidable.

The problem with the fee-hiking model is that many students don’t use the services they pay for. The guaranteed revenue stream reduces the incentive to deliver an excellent product — the money will come in regardless of whether expectations are met. What’s wrong with a user pays model?

If you make something too expensive, it will drive away customers. Not just because it’s unaffordable, but because customers won’t see comparable value for the price. The Board of Regents should be mindful of that proposition when it considers the next round of fee increases.

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