Student fees expected to increase again

Administration discusses what to do with surpluses

Story by Glen Olson, Staff Writer

Student fees could continue to increase next school year, if enrollment decreases again or fails to increase after this year’s dip.


Christian Paese, finance commission director, said that the discussion in the university has been whether to raise the segregated fees for students to continue the same level of services, or cut amount of allocations to programs and organizations on campus.


“Even if we wanted to allocate the exact same dollar amount as last year, because we know enrollment is is going down, we have to make a decision,” Paese said.


Paese said that this year the commission had to decide the intent and purpose of the fees, and wants to keep the level of services as they are, and continue to bring students in and improve the campus.


The part of the segregated fee paid by students is currently $691.24 for full-time students, of which $574.21 is non-allocable and $117.03 is allocable, according to the university’s website.


That makes up the around $4 million dollars per year allocated by student senate.


The level of increase for next year will depend on the appeals of organizations regarding their budgets and a decision by the senate, Paese said.


Even as the segregated fee may increase in certain areas, other programs paid for out of  student fees have running balances.


Martin Hanifin, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said that administration is currently discussing the use of the money collected from fees suchs as the fees for Davies and the textbook rental program.


Hanifin said the Davies maintenance fee maintains the building and also pays for the bond payments on the building, which is essentially the mortgage of the building and is paid on a 20 year commitment.


Students began being charged to pay for the building and maintenance of Davies several years before the building was built, and currently has a balance of $3 million.

It was around $4.5 million until recently when Student Senate and the administration approved moving $1.5 million of that money to pay back University Centers for purchases made for the Davies building to keep the opening on schedule.


Likewise, the fees collected for the textbook rental program have an active balance of around $1.4 million.


Hanifin said that there are several options, including lowering the fees over time or freezing some of them at their current rate to utilize the money, as they did to the textbook rental fee this year.  


“We should be, on an annual basis, looking at revenues and expenses,” Hanifin said. “If we find that revenues continue to meet or exceed expenses, we should put that 1.4 million to use.”


He said this is also something being discussed currently, and he felt the majority opinion was that it should go to benefit the student body.


Both Paese and Hanifin said the question of how much money should be on hand for emergencies or surprise costs, including further drops in enrollment, is what will need the most discussion.


“We have to decide along with the students what is the appropriate amount, and then any repurposing again would go through the students, Hanifin said. “Because this is student revenue that was payed by previous students.”


Hanifin said specifically in regards to Davies Center, a larger amount of money on reserve for the early years of repaying debt on the building makes more sense because there still could be significant changes.


Paese went further and said it would be unreasonable to use the fees for lowering or preventing fees for a small time when eventually the money would run out.


“Once you spend your savings, it’s spent,” Paese said. “So to have some artificially low fee increases when, in actuality, you’re running a deficit and intending to take money out of the savings, you’re going to have some issues down the road.”


Paese said this could result in several jumps in fees once the money is gone and they must account for inflation and costs going up.


He said part of the issue results from a freeze in the tuition and differential tuition, or Blugold Commitment, and that with no new money coming in from those sources, fee increases can be a last resort.

Both Paese and Hanifin, however, said the most appropriate use of balances would be in a way that benefits the students.


Sophomore Janel Balsavich said she thought the fee increases could be appropriate if they were weighed carefully with the need for services and the money that’s already there.

Regarding any balances in the accounts, Balsavich said she would support its use to help  students with fees or in other tangible ways if the decision came to the student senate or student body.

“I think that what most people would want is something for the students,” Balsavich said. “They’re the reason those fees are there.”