Semester fees at Haskell to remain the same, despite switch to online classes for the fall; administration silent on reason

photo by: Conrad Swanson/Journal-World File Photo

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

Haskell Indian Nations University students were upset to see that their semester fees, which typically include housing, food and activity costs, will remain the same price for the upcoming online semester — and that the announcement came from the student newspaper instead of from the university administration.

Haskell students will be charged $715 for the online fall 2020 semester, according to the university’s website, the same price on-campus students were previously charged. Off-campus students, meanwhile, previously paid $240 per semester. Haskell is a tuition-free institution, but students must pay semester fees.

“To see that the price of attending Haskell for the fall is still $715 although we are no longer on campus is kind of ridiculous because technically we are all off-campus now,” said senior Michael King. “It was upsetting. With the pandemic going on I was thinking that we would at least have our fees reduced or, if not, I thought I would be paying off-campus fees.”

The Journal-World reached Haskell President Ronald Graham by phone Thursday morning to ask about the fees, but was told all media inquiries needed to go through university spokesman Stephen Prue. When the Journal-World stated that previous inquiries to Prue had been left unanswered, Graham still directed the Journal-World to him and said he would notify Prue of the request.

The Journal-World did not receive a response from Prue or the Bureau of Indian Education on Thursday.

According to the university’s website, the $715 is broken into two fees: a $382.50 library fee and a $332.50 technology fee.

Jared Nally, editor of the student newspaper, The Haskell Indian Leader, sent a screenshot to the Journal-World of Haskell’s fee chart as it appeared on the website on June 21, before it had been updated to reflect the changes for the online semester.

In that chart, the library fee is only $100 for both on- and off-campus students, and no technology fee exists. (An “internet usage fee” cost both on- and off-campus students $50.)

“It’s almost like Haskell is passing their burden of going online onto the students,” Nally said.

Nally called the updated fees a “significant increase” to what off-campus students normally pay. And now students who live on their own will have to pay those fees on top of paying for their own living and food expenses, he said.

Nally asked Graham on Wednesday to explain the purposes of the library and technology fees, but had not received an answer by Thursday afternoon. He said that responses from the Haskell administration have become increasingly sparse since the departure of former interim President Daniel Wildcat.

He also stated that he has received comments from administrators criticizing his newspaper’s coverage.

In April, he said he received a phone call from a university administrator who said he was concerned that Nally was turning the student newspaper into a “gossip rag.” And in May, Nally said Graham told him that the Indian Leader had written a lot of incorrect information, but when Nally asked what that was, he said Graham deflected the question and stated that they should set up a time to talk. Nally said he has not yet gotten to sit down with the president.

The Journal-World also requested an interview with Graham in May, but was declined the interview and told that interview questions must be reviewed in advance by the “central office.” After sending interview questions to Prue for review, the Journal-World did not receive any response.

Haskell’s Student Government Association wrote a message to the administration expressing its “unified frustration about the unjust fee for the upcoming fall semester.” The student government association also sent the message to Nally, who posted it on the Indian Leader’s Facebook page.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, Indian Country has been hit the hardest. Combined with mass unemployment, every dollar counts, now more than ever,” the statement reads.

The student government association asked why the fee had not been waived, in addition to other questions, and ended the message by stating, “Under Haskell’s new administration, we hope to see Haskell Indian Nations University moving in the right direction.”

Nally and King noted that Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), the only other federally owned and operated higher education institution dedicated to educating Native American Indians and Alaskan Natives, has waived its fall fees.

In its fall memo, released on June 25, SIPI President Sherry Allison wrote that all student fees would be waived for the fall semester.

King, who graduated from SIPI before going to Haskell, questioned why the two institutions — both run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs — would have such different responses to semester fees.

“It makes me question, ‘Why can’t we do what SIPI’s doing?'” he said.


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