Students to pay more in fees

USF students will likely have to pay more next year after a seven-person committee unanimously approved a maximum increase of $1.34 per credit hour Wednesday to be dispersed among three fees already paid by students.

Although each entity initially requested more than allotted at its first meeting last week, the committee eventually agreed to designate $0.64 more to the Student Health fee, $0.36 more to the Athletics fee and $0.34 more to the Activity and Service fee allocated by Student Government.

The increase raises the Student Health fee to $7.93, Athletics to $10.52 and A&S to $8.42.

It was the fourth year in a row a maximum fee increase was approved by the committee.

To be considered final, the University’s Board of Trustees must approve the increase by its Dec. 7 meeting.

When it goes into effect -most likely next year – a student taking 15 credit hours can expect to pay $20.10 more in fees. For a traditional four-year student taking 120 credit hours, that would amount to $160.80.

Committee members were not obligated to increase fees, but felt each entity needed more funding. According to Florida law, the committee is allowed to raise all three fees as they see fit up to 5 percent each year. The total amount of all three fees after the increase must also not exceed 40 percent of students’ tuition.

When added to an estimate of more than 900,000 credit hours for the 2007-2008 academic year, the money dispersed to Health, Athletics and SG adds up to more than $1 million.

“It was a very democratic meeting,” said Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Glen Besterfield, who chaired the committee. “I think everyone walked out of here feeling happy. Now all three may still be disappointed because it wasn’t enough to take care of everyone’s problems. If you look at Athletics, we can’t even put a dent in (its budget). Athletics is going to be at this table asking for another 5 percent for the next 30 years, but that still isn’t going to address all their issues.”

Athletics originally requested a $1 per-credit-hour increase to be used to compensate for travel and other expenses to be used in the Big East Conference as well as funding to begin repairs on the Sun Dome.

“We’re certainly disappointed,” said Rick Costello, associate director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “We felt we made a very compelling case. I’m not sure the system is a very logical one to have Athletics, Health and Student Government competing against each other. We had high hopes to be able to utilize those dollars to get going on the Sun Dome – unfortunately, the committee didn’t feel that need.”

Committee members noted SHS’s increased use of reserve funding, limited space and need to compensate for inflated medical and pharmaceutical costs as high priorities in need.

“Health is spending from their reserves because the fee increase has not been high enough,” said Tom Miller, assistant professor of psychological and social foundations and former dean of students for Student Affairs. “If we don’t allocate enough to Health this time around, our decision will result in further need to fix this problem later so that they aren’t running in the red.”

Although it wasn’t as much as first requested, SHS Director Dr. Egilda Terenzi said she felt the increase would keep SHS on the right track.

“We are very happy with what has been given to us,” Terenzi said. “We feel it will get us on the road to recovery, and any increase we have in the future will help us to go forward with any future programs and services.”

SG senate President Barclay Harless said he was happy with the increase, but said he was hoping to not have to utilize the maximum increase for all.

“Everyone else said we needed the increase and everyone else voted in favor of the full increase,” Harless said. “I’m glad to see Health got what it needed to get out of the red. Now the responsibility lies in how USF administration is going to monitor Health Services.”

SG was denied its request for $0.66 to strengthen traditions on campus. Instead, it received an increase of $0.15 cents from last year’s A&S increase.

“It’s lower than what we initially asked for, so that’s going to hinder the speed with what you’re going to see with traditions on campus,” SG student body President Frank Harrison said. “However, the amount is going to still provide a means to improve Homecoming and our new spring traditions.”

Committee members said both Athletics and SG would fare better than SHS in seeking funding from other sources to compensate for the lack of allocated funds.

“The people running these operations are going to have to make choices because they aren’t going to get everything they want,” Besterfield said.