Courtesy of Kenneth C. Zirkel

Students are required to take two semesters of PE in order to graduate. Many of those classes have mandatory fees associated with them that must be paid in order to enroll.

February 27, 2019

Exercise at a Cost: Two-Thirds of Cornell PE Courses Have Mandatory Fees

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Cornell’s tuition costs $56,784 per year for out-of-state students and $38,114 for New York State residents at state contract colleges — such as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — according to the University’s most recent financial aid figures. But not included in the cost of attendance are fees for physical education classes, a graduation requirement for any undergraduate student.

Undergraduate students must complete two semesters worth of gym classes during their time at Cornell. Courses that fulfill this requirement range from sports like bowling to more adventurous choices, such as Physical Education 1134: Bahamas Scuba Dive Trip.

But while these classes seem fun, many of them come with a hefty price tag. On the lower end is $60 for PE 1420: Introduction to Meditation, while PE 1134: Caribbean Adventure costs $1,275. Cornell’s current most popular gym class, PE 1300: Introduction to Bowling, charges enrollees $125, according to Frederick Debruyn, associate director of Physical Education.

Of the 155 total gym courses currently offered to students, “about two-thirds” require a fee, Debruyn told The Sun.

Debruyn said that the price of activity fees are determined by “what is necessary to run the course.” The fee also goes directly to fund the course, such as payment for instructors.

“Most of our courses are taught by outside people. They are not instructors who are part of the department and [are not] paid as an instructor in the department,” Debruyn said.

If a student doesn’t complete a course, they can get a refund by withdrawing from the class before the deadline — which varies with each course — failing to pass “preliminary requirements” or missing a certain number of classes with a medical reason, according to Cornell Physical Education’s website.

Additional fees can include an up to $100 fee for non-students wishing to participate in a gym class, as well as a $50 fee if a student adds or drops a class after a specific deadline.

Fees are “pretty much fixed,” Debruyn said, who was unsure if there existed a formal policy for waiving fees for students who may not be able to afford them.

For the courses in the Cornell Outdoor Education program, students in need of PE credit may be able to waive their fee, according to the COE website.

However, the PE department does provide a number of classes that are free of charge for those who can’t, or won’t, pay extra.

Badminton, basketball and volleyball classes do not charge fees, and all swimming classes — with the exception of scuba diving — are free for students. There is a $100 fee for “all make-up swim tests taken by sophomores, juniors or seniors except during the August orientation period,” according to the PE website.

“I feel that we provide enough free programs for those who actually need them,” Debruyn said.

When asked if certain gym classes fill more quickly because they are free, Debruyn responded that he does not believe that is the case.

“I would say that they fill pretty much the same as most programs,” he said, adding that most of the classes that fill up quickly are due to their limited size.