ARRL VEC Announces Exam Fee Increase
On November 6, The ARRL VEC announced that as of January 1, 2009, the fee to take an ARRL Volunteer Examiner (VE)-administered Amateur Radio license exam will increase by $1, from $14 to $15. According to ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, ARRL VE teams may retain up to $7 of this fee to directly reimburse their teams' out-of-pocket examination expenses; currently, VE teams keep $6. This is the first time in four years that the examination fee has been adjusted.
Somma said that the FCC allows VECs to collect an examination reimbursement fee from each candidate who takes one or more exam elements. "VEs and VECs may be reimbursed by examinees for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in preparing, processing, administering or coordinating an examination for an amateur operator license (FCC Rule §97.527)," she said. "These exam fees help the VEC recover its costs of providing its services."
Somma said that every examinee at each ARRL coordinated examination session is charged the same fee in accordance with the annually established fee schedule: "Any person sitting for an exam, or having a new license or upgrade processed at a test sessions, must pay the exam fee applicable for the calendar year. The ARRL VEC's exam fee for calendar year 2009 is $15. Each time a candidate pays one exam fee, they are entitled to take tests for Elements 2, 3 and 4 as needed, up to all three elements under the single exam fee. Each time an examinee retakes an exam element (assuming the VE Team has different exam design available), another exam fee is charged."
Collected exclusively to offset expenses that are directly incurred in administering the VE program, VE teams may elect to keep a prescribed portion of each exam fee. "All out-of-pocket reimbursable expenses shall be necessary and prudent, and must relate to the examination process in some way," Somma said. "VECs and VEs are expected to use good business judgment with respect to reimbursement amounts. The examination reimbursement fee cannot be used to offset non-session related costs and must be kept separate from other accounts."
Somma pointed out that business expenses such as postal, utility, fuel and printing charges, are increasing: "Our VE teams are feeling the effects of the current economy, too! Teams are retaining reimbursement at amounts considerably larger than previous years. The amount of out-of-pocket costs that our VEs and the VEC are expending to provide authorized services in connection with Amateur Radio operator examinations continues to rise."
Recent ARRL VEC cost-cutting steps have included staff reduction, reduced printing charges of ARRL VE training material and exam software, renegotiating shipping and printing contracts and eliminating lesser-used services.
"Only so many cost-cutting measures can be justified without cutting back significantly on services essential to our VE teams, our customers and our program," Somma said. "As a result, an adjustment was needed in the 2009 exam reimbursement fee if we intended to maintain the basic levels of service that our VEs, VE teams and candidates have come to expect."
Somma said that the ARRL VEC permits its VEs to retain a portion of the exam fees they collect to directly reimburse themselves for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in setting up and conducting their examination sessions. "As long as the expense is warranted and has been prudently incurred -- and the expense is specifically related to exam administration -- then the fee can be retained," she said. "The team should keep a complete record of the expenses paid (with receipts) in team records for two years. Records must be made available to the ARRL VEC upon request. Costs not related to the exam session processes or paperwork are not reimbursable."
"We believe that the ARRL VECs level of assistance and services are outstanding," said ARRL Chief Operating Officer Harold Kramer, WJ1B. "Exam supplies, such as paperwork and software, shipping costs both to and from the VEC and ARRL VE accreditation, as well as credentials, are all free of charge for our VEs. We maintain a toll-free number for our VEs and we even offer reimbursement to the VE team for their expenses. We appreciate the dedication and volunteerism of all our VEs in the field. This is why we offer so many services free of charge. This is why we have that same level of duty and commitment here. Every test fee we collect goes right back into the VEC program and to serving the Amateur Radio community."