Mandatory Student Fees

Mandatory student fees constitute another area in which colleges and universities have faced free speech issues. These fees are generally collected by colleges as part of student tuition, and then distributed to a wide variety of groups.

Colleges usually do not impose restrictions in terms of ideology on which groups receive these fees, but they have in the past denied funding to groups promoting a religious viewpoint. However, in 1995 in Rosenberger v. Rector of the University of Virginia, the Supreme Court struck down these restrictions at the University of Virginia and ruled the University could not silence the expression of selected viewpoints by denying the groups student fee money. The Rosenberger decision stated colleges have to be rigidly neutral in distributing student fee money and cannot discriminate on the basis of content or viewpoint without violating the First Amendment.

A related issue concerning mandatory student fees has been whether it violates a student’s First Amendment rights to be forced to pay fees that fund groups with which the student disagrees. In 2000, in the case of Board of Regents v. Southworth, the Supreme Court determined that it does not, as long as the money is distributed in a viewpoint neutral fashion, and does not favor one viewpoint over another.


Inside Mandatory Student Fees