Re: What exactly is an independent dojo?
For the USAF, the annual dojo fee is $65 for dojos with fewer than, I think, 50 students. The ranked students pay $30 per year for their membership. Test fees up to Shodan are $30 per test.
We're not required to buy manuals, patches, dogis, hakama, weapons, belts or anything else for that matter, from the USAF.
Since the USAF does not issue Yudansha ranks, but rather gets them directly from Hombu dojo, fees for Yudansha tests go directly to Japan.
I'm not sure what people think is "too expensive", but for me, 65 bucks a year seems reasonable.