Group to discuss raising student fees

A seven-person committee will meet today to decide if and how a fee percentage increase of more than $1 million from student’s tuition should be spent among the Athletic Department, Health Services and Student Government in Room 108 of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.The committee will decide how an increase of $1.34 per credit hour would be split into three fees already paid by students: the Athletics fee, Student Health fee and Activity and Service fee, according to associate professor of undergraduate studies and chair of the committee Glen Besterfield.

The committee will vote on whether the $1.34 per credit hour increase is warranted and how it should be distributed among the three funds. If the committee approves the proposed increase, it would mark the fourth such fee increase in as many years, pending Board of Trustee approval.

Three administrators and three students – the former appointed by Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall and the latter appointed by SG – will assess each group’s need for the fee increase along with Besterfield, who was selected by both USF President Judy Genshaft and student body President Frank Harrison.

Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs Elizabeth Kaplon, former Dean of Students of Student Affairs Tom Miller and Associate Dean of Students of Student Judicial Services Jason Spratt will represent USF’s administrators on the committee.

Representing students’ opinions of the fee are senate President Barclay Harless, senate Budget Committee Chair Umer Ahmed and assistant of SG’s marketing department Erin Fisher.

For a student taking 15 credit hours, the increase would add $20.10 in fees paid per semester. For a traditional four-year student taking 120 credit hours, that would amount to $160.80.

Students already pay $10.16 per credit hour for the Athletics fee, $8.08 toward the A&S fee, and $7.27 per credit hour toward the Student Health fee. Students also pay a $7 flat fee each semester toward A&S fees and a $10 flat fee per semester toward athletics.

The $1.34 fee increase does not immediately affect the cost of tuition; it only increases the amount the three groups will be allowed to take from money generated from the 2007-2008 fiscal year’s tuition price. The fee, however, will be added beginning next fiscal year.

Representatives of the Florida Board of Governors will be meeting to discuss a 7 percent tuition increase Nov. 16 at the University of West Florida.

The cap allowed to the committee to seek funding from tuition is 40 percent, according to Florida State Law.

“The 40 percent cap would be hard to reach,” Miller said. “Tuition has increased by more than 5 percent several times in the past. We’d need a couple years of no tuition increases for us to reach 40 percent.”

According to Miller, the three groups utilize 36 percent of student’s tuition.

Besterfield said the committee would hear proposals from each group to assess how much each group needs from the increase.

“If someone comes to the table this year, we’re going to ask them, ‘What did you do with the money we gave you last year, and how was that utilized to the benefit of our students?'” Besterfield said.

A decision to approve the fee increase must be made before a Board of Trustees Academic and Campus Environment Workgroup. After that it will have to be approved by the next Board of Trustee meeting on Dec. 7.

“With the Board of Governors deliberating on a 7 percent tuition increase, I don’t know we’ll come to a decision,” Besterfield said. “I don’t think we will. I think what we need is to come together and sit as a group and talk about what we need.”