Paying a tuition bill with plastic is about to become more expensive at the University of Arizona, and some students aren’t taking kindly to the news.

Starting May 5, credit and debit card transactions with UA’s bursar will incur a 2.5 percent “convenience fee,” adding about $250 to an in-state undergraduate’s annual $10,000 tuition bill.

About a quarter of UA’s 40,000-plus students now pay their tuition with plastic, Mark McGurk, the school’s comptroller, estimated.

They can avoid the new fee by paying instead with electronic checks or conventional checks, he said.

The change affects only tuition payments. Card users will not incur the fee at UA’s bookstore, box offices or sporting events, for example.

The new setup was announced in a memo to UA students Monday. By Tuesday, a petition on the website had attracted more than 4,500 e-signatures asking the university to reverse the decision.

The card fee “will discriminate against many U of A students who already cannot afford the cost of their education,” said the petition, launched by student Tiffany Lee. She could not be reached Tuesday for further comment on the effort.

The change stems from the UA’s decision to cut its direct ties with credit card firms, which charged the school about $3 million in processing fees last year.

Instead, a third-party firm will process tuition payments made with plastic and tack on the 2.5 percent fee — essentially transferring the cost of card use to individual users rather than the UA as a whole.

The company involved keeps the fee money. None of it goes to the UA, McGurk said.

The Tucson school is the last public university in Arizona to make the change.

Arizona State University in Tempe and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff switched to fee setups years ago, as have many other schools nationwide.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138.