Fee committee postpones vote on increase

A seven-person committee agreed Wednesday to hold another meeting before delegating more than $1 million from an increase of student fees to the Athletic Department, Student Heath Services and Student Government sometime within the next week.

The committee will decide how a maximum 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.

Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield, who chairs the committee, said the group – composed of Besterfield, three students from SG and three administrators – would plan for another meeting “as soon as possible.”

“I’d never sit here for two hours and then try to make a hasty decision to allocate $1 million of students’ money,” Besterfield said. “This is students’ money, and how we determine (where it goes) is very important.”

At the meeting, the committee heard proposals from Associate Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Rick Costello, SHS Director Egilda Terenzi and SG Director of Governmental Relations David Brickhouse concerning how much each organization wanted and what the increase would pay for.

Last year, the committee and the University Board of Trustees approved a fee increase of $1.28 per credit hour. From that increase, the Athletic Department was allocated $.66, Health Services $.43 and SG $.19. In total, the Athletic Department received an additional $617,431, Health Services $402,266 and SG $177,745 to their annual budgets.

This year, the Athletic Department is requesting $1, Health Services $1 and SG $.66 per credit hour. Because the maximum increase is $1.34, one or all of the groups will end up receiving less than requested.

According to Costello, the limitations of the Athletic Department’s operating budget are making it hard for USF to compete against other Big East schools.

“The University made a commitment to be in (the Big East) conference. To do this, we need a level playing field if we want to compete,” Costello said. “We’re in a league with the big boys, and as we grow and move forward, we need to continue to spread this budget to continue to be successful.”

For the Athletic Department, Costello said the fee would help fund the upkeep of athletic facilities such as improvements to the Sun Dome, athletic fields and equipment.

Costello also said the money would help offset the cost of paying for the rental of Raymond James Stadium for USF’s home football games, among other expenses.

Terenzi said SHS is “stretched thin” and is struggling to keep up with the cost of payroll and increases in medical supplies.

“We’re just at the bottom of the bucket as far as what we we’re able to pay,” Terenzi said. “Truly, we have warned people this was going to be happening, and I hate to sound like we’ve been operating at a fiscal loss because we’ve really been very frugal.”

With the proposed $1-per-credit hour allotment for SHS, Terenzi said she would allocate about $350,000 to SHS’s reserve fund.

According to Terenzi, some of the money would also be used to increase employee wages, hire an assistant director and help keep up with the cost of operating a paperless medical record database. Plans are also underway for a feasibility study that would explore the possible expansion of SHS.

Brickhouse said SG’s request would help initiate more traditions and student life on campus.

To do this, SG wants to use $.66 from the overall fee increase to booster SG-sponsored events in the fall and spring semesters, such as Homecoming Week and Bullstock. With the increase, SG would spend twice as much ($700,000) on Homecoming Week.

“We’re one of the largest universities in the Big East, so we need to put on a show,” Brickhouse said.

After the meeting, senate President Barclay Harless said he would be meeting with other students and faculty on the committee to “try and find some common ground” to present a “fiscally responsible and practical method” for how the money could best be spent.

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, an additional $160.80 would be paid over the course of their college career.

Students already pay $10.16 per credit hour for the Athletics fee, $8.08 for the A&S fee and $7.27 per credit hour for 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.