Throughout Tuesday's Consolidation Task Force meeting at a packed Teco Hall, the 13-member committee reiterated that USF is working to establish an appropriate fee structure that guarantees fair distribution and ensures that students on each campus not be required to pay superfluous fees.
Although no official vote was conducted, this was the Consolidation Task Force's last meeting before submitting its final report to the Board of Trustees on Feb. 12 to become a single-accredited university by summer 2020.
The Task Force used the three subcommittees — Student Access, Shared Governance/Transparency and Student Success/Academic Programs/Campus Identity — to serve as a planning template.
The meeting focused on the Shared Governance/Transparency committee, which works to “establish budget transparency and accountability” among the three campuses and to ensure that USF’s branches — St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee — are treated fairly when paying athletic fees and various fee differentials.
Shared Governance/Transparency subcommittee member Melissa Seixas said fees should be taken into consideration based on each campus’ resources offered to students.
“We’ve been working very closely with the chief financial officer of the university regarding this issue,” Seixas said. “What we’ve heard from student government leaders and other students that did testimonies is that we still should try to turn over every single stone we can to look at an option of a differentiated fee schedule.”
In the Task Force’s final report, Sarasota-Manatee Student Body President Michael Klene expressed concerns regarding possible new student fees without equivalent services, including the athletic fee charged on the Tampa campus.
On Dec. 19, the Consolidation Task Force reviewed budget transparency and said an allocation process for a central pool of funds would be used for system-wide programming to allow other campus-specific fees to remain local.
In addition, the Task Force's final report said an annual operating budget for each campus and a report on the distribution of funds — including student tuition fees, preeminence funding and performance-based funding — would be provided to each campus and approved by The Board of Trustees.
According to Nicole Washington, Shared Governance/Transparency Subcommittee member, the main focus should be concentrated on how the fees would impact students after consolidation.
“Students are very afraid that consolidation will make everything more expensive,” Washington said. “There are a number of models that we’re looking at and we should try to do everything we can to mitigate the impact on students.”
System President Judy Genshaft said cooperation and collaboration are the main values driving the consolidation process of the three campuses, though there are still many issues to mitigate.
"I believe that we’ve been guided all along by very important principles and values that make such a big difference in the direction that we are going," Genshaft said. "What we’re finding during the change over the past several years is that everything is very metric-oriented."
“We’ve been very focused and we are growing in the same direction to reach the same goals."
Additional reporting by Alyssa Stewart