Senate raises fees to cover University Centers deficit

Student fee hike will lessen debt burden inside campus meal plan


Photo by Raina Beutel

Story by Raina Beutel, Staff Writer

Student Senate voted unopposed Monday to plug a $2.3 million University Centers deficit by raising student fees and easing an “administration” charge in campus meal plans.

Currently, students with meal plans pay twice to fund University Centers. Once, with a $780 annual charge in meal plans. Again, with $188 of $429 in segregated fees all students pay.

Senate supports a plan to dedicate $218 in seg fees next year — a 7 percent student fee hike — to help whittle down the deficit. That increase compensates for a $140 reduction in fees for students with meal plans.

Charles Farrell, director of University Centers, said most meal plan users are first-year students in the dorms who don’t see the administration fee “taken off the top.”

“Frankly, people pay more attention to (segregated) fees than meal plan fees,” he said.

Eau Claire meal plans range from $1,400 to $1,665 a semester, according to Blugold Dining.

Planned residence hall renovations next year will displace students, who may not be required to buy meal plans. That means University Centers can’t rely on the same share of meal plan fees next year, according to the proposal.

Farrell said University Centers spends the current $780 fee on operation expenses for university facilities — including Davies, Hilltop and other small-scale operations, such as the food cart in Haas.

Farrell said the current situation presents an “inherent unfairness,” because students with meal plans pay more.

Farrell said, “back in the mist of time, meal plans paid all of the University Centers budget,” and that has been ongoing for “decades.”

By spending down the balance, it becomes less of a “political target,” Farrell said.

“We’ve never been asked to justify it before,” he said. “Now, we are.”


Senate’s 3-year plan

Christian Paese, Senate finance director, introduced a 3-year plan to phase the costs throughout the student body Monday night.

“This wasn’t done to do anything malicious,” Paese said. “That’s just where the charges have gone to support the operations.”

Next year, students will pay $218 from $188 this year to fund University Centers.

The following year, Senate will raise that rate $10 and then $11 — to $239 total — the year after that.

The chunk of University Centers fees will increase less than three percent until 2025, Paese said.

The University Centers account would reach an estimated $2.3 million by the end of the 3-year period and be spent down to $670,000, or about 20 percent of operating expenses.

Paese said the second of four options provided a “middle of the road” between plans that posed “incredible” fees to quickly and two others which he said would not prove sustainable in continuing years.

“It’s unfortunate things … aren’t currently aligned,” Paese said. “But I think the move ahead of us … it’s pretty clear this is the right thing to do.”