Orientation fee helps new students find their way

Mandee Jackson/Sun Star Reporter
April 24, 2012

The New Student Orientation office is located in the Wood Center Office Suites. This is where each years orientation is planned. Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star

As the snow thaws and finals loom, UAF’s New Student Orientation scouts out orientation leaders who will welcome incoming students in September. Fall orientation, a frenzy of free food, fun and new friends, relies on a one-time fee to keep rolling.

“It’s where I met most of the friends I have now.” Sarah Maus said. The 19-year-old mathematics student dove into all of the activities that the event had to offer, such as the games, breakfasts and tours.

“It was fun for me because of my orientation leader,” Maus added.

Students only pay the New Student Orientation fee once during their time at UAF.

Specifically, the groups of students who pay this fee are first-time bachelor’s-degree-seeking students, degree-seeking international students, exchange students and UA Scholars. Students who are coming in with more than 30 credits or are obtaining a two-year degree are not charged. The fall orientation fee is $75 and it is $35 for spring orientation. The difference in cost is due to the difference in amount of time for orientation.

Fall orientation lasts four days while spring orientation is just one day. This fee was introduced in the 1990s and was originally $25, when the Student Activities Office, Outdoor Adventures, and New Student Orientation were all under one office. In 2004, the Wood Center department decided to raise the price to $75 when NSO became a part of Enrollment Services. The department revenue fluctuates over the years because it is dependent on student enrollment. For the 2011-2012 year there were about 882 students registered in the fall orientation and 151 for the spring, creating $65,890 in revenue. The revenue for the last five years has averaged to approximately $62,700 per year.

All of this money is used within the program. Every day of the four-day fall orientation is packed with activities and games. The first day of fall orientation is set aside for new students to sign up for programs in the Hess Rec Center. This is where the new students pay for their mail box, sign up for their meal plan, and receive their Polar Express card.

After lunch the program splits into various group activities, such as the scavenger hunt, campus tour and breakfast with an NSO group.

As an incentive for coming to all of these events, the NSO leaders can punch holes in the each student’s orientation booklet to verify that the student attended the event. At the end of orientation, students who had all the spaces punched were entered into a drawing for airline tickets.

Robert Doerning, an 18-year-old freshman with an undeclared major enjoyed fall orientation.

“It was definitely worth $75,” Doerning said. “It was fun and well done with plenty of enthusiasm. And I got more familiar with the campus. It shows that this college cares about the students.”

The Fall fee covers program expenses and provides $200 in Bear Bucks for orientation leaders who help students and families move in.

The fee pays for shuttle services, game prizes for the games, the catering services throughout the events, and the welcome bags that every student participating receives. The welcome bags contain coupons for piercings and coffee, UAF water bottles, maps of campus, and information packets for incoming students. The department saves any money left over uses it for the next orientation period.

The spring orientation is a condensed version of the fall. This is more of a briefing rather than an eventful week.

Kayleen Hansen, an 18-year-old majoring in biology, enjoyed her Spring orientation.

“It was informative and the speakers were great. I’m glad I went because it explained a lot of things I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” Hansen said.

Spring orientation is a half-day event and the students get the same welcome bags that students in the fall receive. The $35 Spring fee goes toward catering and compensation for the 10 orientation leaders.

Orientations and orientation fees are common in U.S. universities.

“UAF’s fee is significantly below others,” said Damien Snook, UAF’s orientation director.

Peer institutions charge an average of $129.44, Snook said. The average length of orientation is two-and-a-half days.

“It’s helpful for the students, it gets them acquainted with UAF. It is worth going to because there’s so many thing to learn about the college,” said NSO leader Mercedes Hughes, a graduating 22-year-old sociology and biological sciences senior.

UAA has a fee of $75 per student and $25 per guest. Its orientation is an eight-hour program.

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