Enrolling in college includes a number of things unexpected in a basic education package. Portland State is no exception. Here, you’ll be required to take many classes that span subjects you don’t care about, and you’ll be nickel-and-dimed until your wallet cries uncle. Then, you’ll be nickel-and-dimed some more.

Of course, the idea of having to watch your financial back usually occurs after graduation, where interest rates and loan transfers will have you dreading a trip to the mailbox. A new student usually doesn’t realize the process of acquiring a degree is arduous, full of various money pits, most of which are leveled against them en route to their degree. Thanks to PSU’s newest venture, Desire2Learn (D2L), our pocketbooks are being gouged once more.

D2L is a new online learning program and PSU is expected to charge a bit of cash in order to recoup some of the capital invested into the project. The initial pricing for a university to use D2L has varying factors, such as class size. However, the hard rates are not anywhere to be found unless you’re deep in the application process, which makes the actual cost tough to pin down for an outsider.

One thing is for sure: Whatever PSU is charging us in relation to D2L, $60 per online credit hour is a gross injustice, and that’s exactly what PSU rips from your student account. Each online class we take—in which a room is not being used, and in which an instructor spends little, if any, time at PSU—comes with a financial penalty.

What if the class you need to complete your major is only offered online? What if you’re unlucky enough to take a class with a supplemental component (such as a mentored inquiry session or a lab session)? Too bad. Pay up. You will be charged for all credit hours, even if you access the side course’s content from the original class page on D2L.

Students may be interested in the fact that for a fully-online inquiry course, you will be billed an “inquiry fee,” which pushes the online price upward nearly $300 on top of the price of the credit hours. This is, of course, all for a class that you probably didn’t want to take in the first place. For this price, you could almost afford to take an entire class.

Nowhere on Banweb will you find any written caveat warning of the costly blow. Students must search for it separately from Banweb, the site where they spend most of their time. In essence, this is akin to snake-oil sales, in that you know better the second time, but as for the first time, they don’t care as long as they have your money.

The real travesty of this is that you likely don’t have your eye on your student account and Higher One the whole time, because you’re actually learning instead of pouring over it with a green-plastic visor. You’ll notice a shortage of financial aid but think nothing of it—that is, until the census date rolls around and you get back much less than expected. It is then—and only then—that you’ll check your student account. However, by this time, it is too late to receive a full refund for that class. It’s all pretty fiendish, but consider it a learning experience. You’re in college, after all.

As mentioned before, PSU feels that it has to wring these fees out of you to fund D2L’s cost, because it just scrapped Blackboard (which was basically the exact same thing). However, we wonder why it has to be paid for at all.

The crux of D2L’s learning environment is a message board that enables and promotes group discussions. A secondary feature of D2L is a crude e-mail system that is tedious to navigate.

That said, why are these fees not mentioned up front in our tuition costs, and why are we using these features when other university departments are taking advantage of free external components such as Google Apps and Flickr?

P.T. Barnum is often credited with the aphorism, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” If that’s the case, then as far as D2L is concerned, PSU bought front-row seats to the circus, along with popcorn, peanuts and the whole spread. Leveled against the students now is an incredible case of buyer’s remorse.

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