A few dollars more

The self-titled Student Fee Committee met for the first and last time Friday in the Administration building. In a brief meeting with little discussion or debate, the committee unanimously voted to propose a $1.28 increase in per-credit hour fees paid by USF students, the highest increase permitted by Florida state law. If the proposed fee increase is adopted, it will mark the third such fee increase in as many years.

The fee would be split into increases in three fees already paid by students: the Athletics Fee (66 cents), Student Health Fee (43 cents), and the Activities & Services Fee (19 cents) allocated by Student Government.

The committee was made up of six members, half students and half administration members. The student representatives were Student Government Senate President Frank Harrison, Director of Student Affairs Kyle Myers and SG Senator Amal Patel. The committee members from the administration included Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs Liz Kaplon, Coordinator of the Career Development Center Sally Hayes and Associate Dean of Students for Student Judicial Services Jason Spratt. The meeting was chaired by Glen Besterfield, an assistant dean of undergraduate studies, who was responsible for casting the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

The proposal for the $1.28 per-credit hour fee increase was prepared and presented to the committee by Tom Miller, the dean of students.

“There was no group,” Miller said after the meeting. “There was no time for a group.”

He said the planning and preparation for the committee was rushed due to deadlines and a surprise change in the schedule of the Board of Trustees.

“Now we’re in a situation where we literally need to make a decision today,” Miller said to the members of the committee as the meeting got underway.

“I’m not sure who is to blame for the communication breakdown between the BOT and SG, but it needs to and will be corrected in the future,” Harrison said. “We are drafting amendments to our own statutes in addition to University policy to streamline the process.”

The first vote of the committee was whether they should examine the proposal as a whole or if they should examine the three separate fee increases individually. The vote was a 3-3 deadlock with all three students voting to look at the separate fees and all three members of the administration voting to look at the entire fee as a whole. Besterfield cast the deciding vote on the side of the members of the administration and all votes afterwards were unanimous.

One individual present at the proceedings who wished to remain anonymous noted that the initial vote seemed to set a precedent for the rest of the meeting.

Dollar estimates of how much the fees would generate that were used in the meeting came from the Office of Budget and Policy Analysis, according to Miller. They estimated the new fee would create $1,197,442 based on an estimation of 935,502 credit hours for the 2006-2007 year.

The approximately $400,000 that would go to Student Health Services would be used for salaries, a switchover to electronic medical records and a variety of costs associated with the looming possibility that health insurance may be mandatory for students.

The A&S budget would receive a boost of approximately $175,000. A&S funds are allocated by SG each spring. The fee increase would be for the purpose of creating new administrative positions in Greek Life and Volunteer USF, but ultimately SG will have the power to allocate that money however it pleases.

The Athletics budget would receive approximately $615,000. The destination of those dollars was less clear than for the other two fees.

“It’s not as if Athletics runs in a way so that they track a dollar to an event. All their revenue goes in a pile,” Miller said in response to the committee’s inquiries on for what specifically the Athletics Department would be using their windfall.

There was a list of places that Athletics might use the money, but the costs on that list added up to well over one million dollars. The list included costs associated with joining the Big East Conference, increased facility rental and improvement costs and increased management expenses.

Students already pay $9.50 per credit hour for the Athletics Fee, $7.89 towards the A&S Fee and $6.84 per credit hour towards the Student Health Fee. Students also pay a $7.00 flat fee each semester towards A&S and a $10.00 flat fee per semester towards Athletics. There is no flat semester fee for Student Health.

The proposal is scheduled to be heard in the Finance and Audit Workgroup on Oct. 10. It would then go to the BOT and would finally require approval in Tallahassee.