Testing Center institutes new make-up exam fees

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Concerns about a new $6.50 fee for make-up exams that professors run through the Testing Center was brought up at a Faculty Association Executive Board meeting on Oct. 13.

The Testing Center has undergone numerous changes this fall. It has begun to use RegisterBlast – an appointment, organizational and questionnaire program. Since the library renovations, it has also been situated in a space of its own on Zahnow’s third floor. The space includes 23 computer desks, two quiet spaces, accessible tables and lockers for personal items that cannot be taken into the testing space.

The Center has also changed some of its fees; online proctoring services for SVSU students has been reduced from $25 to $10 an hour. A math placement exam retake fee of $10 has been instituted in addition to the new $6.50 fee for make-up exams. The make-up exam fee does not impact disability services testing.

According to Office of Adjunct Faculty and Academic Support Programs Director Ann Coburn-Collins, $1.50 of the make-up exam fee goes to RegisterBlast. The remaining $5 is used to help pay for the $80 worth of monthly RegisterBlast fees as well as to compensate proctors and pay for the new space.

“One of the goals that the university has for this center is to be a place that will provide some resources for the university,” Coburn-Collins said. “They want us to get into GREs, GMATs, LSATs, testing like that.”

The Center is currently in the last stages of being certified by the National College Testing Association (NCTA). After the certification process is complete, the Center will reach out to testing organizations like Pearson VUE to become an official test center.

Coburn-Collins said the Center’s primary usage is for placement testing. Make-up tests are more often requested by adjunct faculty,who have less on-campus availability than full-time faculty.

Lecturer of Biology Amanda Ross said she’s been using the service for years.

“A lot of professors use their office hours for testing,” Ross said. “I prefer not to do that, because during my office hours, I talk to other people, and it’s just not an ideal testing environment for my students. … If a student wanted to take a make-up test, (the Testing Center) was just perfect because it was an actual testing environment.”

Ross explained that, when she wasn’t able to use the Center, her departmental secretary would administer the test.

“That’s been my backup plan because, again, it’s not an ideal testing environment,” Ross said. “(The secretary) does a great job, don’t get me wrong … but it’s still in the faculty suite, so there are people walking by and talking, and students make do, but it’s not ideal.”

Coburn-Collins said students are not required to do make-up tests at the Center.

“It’s kind of a courtesy that we offer to students and faculty,” she said. “The faculty can still administer their own tests. They’re not required to send students upstairs.”

Coburn-Collins explained how the Testing Center is tied to her position as the director of the Office of Adjunct Faculty Support.

“If you can think of it this way, the Office of Adjunct Faculty Support is a support office, so our office in here costs the university money, but nobody pays anything,” Coburn-Collins said. “The Testing Center is something different. It provides some support, but it also wants us to be able to at least break even or, if not, do better, in order to try to help the university as a stream of income.”

Ross said that, though she enjoyed the service, she will not be using the Center for make-up testing again.

“For a student to pay $6.50 to take a test can be a big deal for some,” Ross said. “If a professor has decided that it’s appropriate for a student to be able to take a make-up exam, they shouldn’t have to pay financially for that.”

Coburn-Collins said the fees seem small in comparison with those of other institutions.

Some universities do not offer the service. Michigan Tech’s Testing Center website says there are no fees for computerized or make-up exams for university courses, though there are fees for certifications and other non-university exams. According to MSU’s Testing Office website, there is a $20 charge for make-up exams.

“$6.50 is a Starbucks, you know?” Coburn-Collins said. “It’s nominal.”

Ross said she’s curious how much the university benefits from the new make-up testing fees.

“In a cost-benefit analysis, I would be shocked if this helped the university financially in a dramatic way,” Ross said.

Testing Center Coordinator Heather Kanicki said the Testing Center proctored 44 make-up tests from the beginning of the semester through Dec. 5. In Fall 2016, the Center reported administering 187 make-up exams. Numbers have fallen largely across the board, though, in part as a result of declining student enrollment and fewer international programs.

Kanicki said she hasn’t had a single complaint from the students who have used the Center’s services, though faculty have been split in their view of the fees.

“Most of the faculty that come in, they’re extremely happy that we’re charging for the make-up test especially because it limits the number of students just not showing up to take an exam, so they seem to be extremely happy about that,” Kanicki said.

“The only critiques we’ve had is how to handle things like family emergencies, but that would be up to the instructor, too,” Kanicki added. “If that’s a situation where the instructor doesn’t want the student to have to pay the $6.50, the instructor is more than welcome to have the student take the test with them. This is not a requirement; it’s just an option.”

Ross said she was unsure if the make-up testing fee was just odd to her or if other professors would be concerned, as well.

“This is really about the students,” Ross said. “And if a student deserves a make-up test, then they deserve a make-up test.”

Coburn-Collins also has the students in mind.

“I really do think this is a good thing for the university,” she said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything harmful. I really don’t. I wouldn’t do anything that was harmful to the students.”