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Tallahassee talks tech fee

Today’s dependence on technology is sometimes overwhelming, and for the students at Florida’s 11 public universities, the price tag for that modern luxury can become quite a burden.

The Florida House of Representatives is considering HB 717, a bill that will require Florida college students to pay a technology fee. Although last summer the Board of Governors asked the legislature for about $6 million in technology funding, it hasn’t been enough to halt the constant need for technology upgrades.

HB 717 would change the General Appropriations Act (Statute 1009.24) by raising the limit for the fee. At present, the fee cannot exceed 40 percent of tuition for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. If passed, HB 717 will increase the range to 45 percent.

Each university would set up a committee to regulate the fees.

According to Adam Dominguez of the Student Government computer lab located in the basement of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, students mostly complain about the low number of available computers.

“Until we get a new Marshall Center, Student Government and Activity & Service (A&S) fees can’t provide the appropriate amount of funds,” he said.

Complaints are often made about software availability and diversity.

Florida residents attending USF’s Tampa campus pay $107.88 per credit hour. Additionally, students pay flat fees for A&S, athletics and the student union that total $37. Specific schools also charge lab fees. For example, the School of Mass Communications requires its students to pay $15 each semester in funds that go to computer and software upgrades.

“In general the technology demands placed on the University by students and faculty grow every year,” said Bill Edmonds, spokesman for the Florida Board of Governors. “Universities can’t stop investing in technology.”

Advertising major Erica Mersinger said she is in favor of the fee if it doesn’t break her budget.

“As long as it is not an absurd amount, I don’t think I would even notice it,” she said.

Associate Vice President of Government Relations Jeffrey Muir said the idea of funding through a specific fee initially came about from the student body.

“The issue is that the type of technology we are upgrading is directly for the students, not the administration,” Muir said.

He said this fee provides the opportunity for students to get the upgrades they want.

Each university’s committee has the option to either impose the fee or not. The committees will be made up of an equal number of students appointed by the student body president and faculty appointed by the university’s president.

Edmonds said once the fee increase is approved by the state, the committee will be able to decide if it wants to implement an increase at USF.

“Students can stop it dead in its track if they want,” Edmonds said.

Muir said a request for more technology money has been proposed to the Legislature this session; however, if not all funding is provided, the fee could be imposed to supplement the rest of the cost. Muir said it is up the students to voice if they want the fee.