Financial Administration

Special Course Fees (G29)

Revised: April 7, 2006

  1. Background

    The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is empowered to establish special course fees under the provisions of section 36.27(1), Wis. Stats. This policy outlines procedures for establishing and approving special course fees for credit courses.

  2. Policy

    Institutions may assess special course fees to pay for certain instructional costs that are not covered by the institution's regular instructional budget. Special course fees may be used for a variety of purposes, as deemed necessary by the institution, for the delivery of a credit course. Some examples of purposes for which institutions may charge special course fees include the cost of transportation and admission on field trips; materials for projects that result in tangible products retained by students; and private lessons provided to non-music majors.

    Special course fees shall be used solely for approved purposes and in support of the courses for which the fees were assessed. Institutions must strive to provide all students in a course who are charged a special course fee with a reasonable opportunity to benefit equally from the fee.

    Institutions may not use special course fees as a substitute for obtaining adequate regular budget support for a course. Institutions are prohibited from charging special course fees for costs that should reasonably be covered by the institution's regular instructional budget. Examples of prohibited uses are included in the Appendix.

    University students sometimes incur personal expenses by directly purchasing required, recommended, and optional instructional materials in support of their educational experience. These personal or incidental expenses do not typically require approval as a special course fee unless the institution collects fees from students to facilitate payment for goods and services needed for a course. Some examples of personal expenses include: textbooks and course supplies purchased from the university bookstore; food, lodging, and incidentals on field trips; and transportation to sites for student teaching and clinical assignments.

  3. Procedures

    The following are procedures for assessing a special course fee:

    1. Approval and Notification

      The Chancellor or his or her designee(s) must approve all special course fees and must document and maintain records of that approval. Each institution should develop a standard approval process. Institutions shall notify students of all approved special course fees in the university catalog/bulletin and/or timetable/class schedule prior to registration.

    2. Fee Collection

      Institutions shall bill students for all approved special course fees through the university billing process. Institutions are prohibited from collecting special course fees in the classroom, and faculty or instructors may not collect fees from students.

    3. Fee Expenditures

      Institutions may use special course fee funds only for the purposes for which they were intended. Institutions that accumulate cash balances from special course fees shall adjust future special course fees to eliminate the balances.

    4. Accountability

      Institutions shall establish appropriate procedures and records to account for special course fee revenues and expenditures. Institutions must audit special course fees on a regular basis.

FAP - Special Course Fees (G29)


The following are situations in which institutions SHALL NOT charge students special course fees:

  1. For salaries and wages for any university instructor, support staff, or administrative staff.

  2. For the normal consumption of materials purchased by the university for use by students in activities that are integral to credit course instruction, such as glassware used by students enrolled in chemistry courses. However, institutions MAY:

    1. Collect a deposit in order to ensure the return in reasonable condition of university equipment and supplies temporarily assigned to a student.

    2. Recover costs from an individual student when the institution provides resources to the student beyond those provided to all students in a course, such as when the student chooses to upgrade materials or complete optional course requirements. The institution must notify the student beforehand that a choice to upgrade materials will result in an additional charge.

  3. For standard equipment and maintenance, such as desks, blackboards, computer projection equipment, fitness equipment, or other standard equipment used for instructional purposes.

  4. For typical instructional handout materials, such as syllabi, assignments, or examination materials.

  5. For the purchase of laptops, the use of computer and other laboratory equipment, operating system software, computer maintenance and related supplies, or expenses covered by the student technology tuition surcharge fee.

  6. For honoraria.

  7. For health and/or safety equipment required in carrying out course activities, such as equipment required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including but not limited to safety shields, respirators, and eye wash equipment.

  8. For other course supplies or materials that could reasonably be expected to be covered by an institution's regular instructional budget.