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Student fees: you get what you pay for
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Parents, if you think your child is unfairly paying extra student dues at Newton County high schools that amount to more than students at other schools across the district, well, you may or may not be correct.

Student dues run about the same price for all high schools — Alcovy, Eastside and Newton high schools, along with the Newton College and Career Academy (NCCA). The alleged discrepancy, which some parents have recently come to The Covington News about, may come from the breakdown and timing of when students are required to pay.

An initial question of why Eastside upperclassmen were charged $20 more than Alcovy’s upperclassmen for a parking spot led to a look into all four schools’ student fees, how much they were charged for each item and what year they were due. Sherri Davis-Viniard, director of public relations for Newton County School System (NCSS), gathered information from each school’s principal for The Covington News, and The Covington News was able to confirm numbers for Alcovy and NCCA with Sandra Owens, Alcovy principal.

Alcovy, Eastside and Newton high schools all charge students $40 for an individual parking space good through the academic year. Parking fees must be renewed each year the student wants a spot.

The extra $20 comes in when they start paying student fees, which vary between schools. Eastside charges $20 each year to juniors and seniors, which goes to a fund that pays for diploma covers, picnic tables, bike racks, honor stoles, junior and senior pictures, etc.

Alcovy does not charge mandatory student fees. Alcovy Principal Owens said diplomas cost $30, but that is an optional charge based on whether the student wants a copy of his or her diploma. And seniors pay for what they want out of senior pictures, from nothing to the maximum package.

“We try to minimize our fees,” Owens said. “Without sacrificing quality, we do as best we can to keep things as cheap as we can.”

Last year, she said, about 64 percent of students at Alcovy were on free and reduced lunch programs.

Newton High School charges a one-time $100 fee to upperclassmen, which even includes prom. Eastside’s prom tickets range from $65 to $85, with prices increasing as the date approaches. Alcovy also has a sliding scale for prom tickets, ranging from $50 to $85, depending on the venue and when the student purchases the ticket.

Students who attend NCCA technically pay the same amount for two parking spots. They give $10 for a spot at their base school and $30 for a spot at NCCA. NCCA does not collect student fees or prom ticket charges as they attend prom at and are already charged by their base school.

All in all, with one year’s parking spot and one prom ticket, an Alcovy upperclassman is required to pay $90-$125. That price is $180-$250 if the student buys a parking spot and goes to prom both junior and senior year. Eastside students end up paying $250-$290 over the course of two years, including two parking spots and two trips to prom. By the time seniors graduate from Newton, they will have paid $180, which includes two parking spots.

Alcovy’s and Eastside’s fees can be drastically dropped to $80 and $120, respectively, if the student skips out on prom both years. If students also opt out of a parking spot both years, those at Alcovy owe zip for any fees, and those at Eastside owe $20 each upperclassman year. Since Newton’s prom ticket is included in the student fees, the lowest they can go is $100 by choosing to forgo both parking spots.

But what fun is that?