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The low-down on higher fees

A subcommittee of the Board of Trustees meeting next week will likely support two proposals for fee hikes that would increase student fees by $2.10 per credit hour, beginning Fall 2008.

The two proposals – one for a 75-cent increase in transportation fees and the other for a $1.35 increase in student access fees – mark a significantly higher spike than the fee bumps approved in the last five years, and come bundled with expectations that students’ tuition will also increase.

Since the 2002-2003 academic year, student access fees – a health fee, activity and service fee, and athletic fee – have gone up by an amount close to this year’s $1.35 increase, the most allowed by state law. But the transportation fee, which pays for the Bull Runner bus service, has remained a flat $2 per credit hour since the 2002-2003 school year.

For students on the Tampa campus, the activity and service fee that funds Student Government would go up 37 cents to $8.79 per credit hour, the health fee would stay the same at $7.91 per credit hour and the athletic fee would jump 98 cents, to $11.50 per credit hour.

For a student taking 15 credit hours, the fee increases would amount to an extra $31.50 per semester.

“You try to fight for lower student fees and put the student’s interest first, but you can only do so much,” student body President Garin Flowers said. “It’s a situation where you have a lot of different entities on campus with their hand out and so the fees pretty much have to go up every year.”

With Tampa students expected to enroll for close to one million credit hours next semester, the activity and service fee hike would generate an additional $370,000, and the athletic fee an extra $980,000.

The athletic fee would fund a study to determine whether renovation or rebuilding is the best plan to upgrade the Sun Dome. It would also cover losses in general admission ticket sales caused by a proposed expansion of the student section at Raymond James from 8,000 to 12,501 seats, and support the rise in the cost of providing athletic scholarships that would come with the expected tuition hikes.

The activity and service fee would pay for increased operating costs at the new Marshall Student Center and cover upgrades to Campus Recreation, including badly needed repairs to the indoor pool.

These fees will combine with a 5 percent statewide rise in tuition and an additional 5 percent tuition differential bump affecting only USF, the University of Florida and Florida State University – both already approved by Gov. Charlie Crist.

The full Board of Trustees will meet in December, and any fee hikes must first get the board members’ approval. They have fully approved the fee hikes recommended by the subcommittee the last two years.

When a series of fee committees first considered the proposals from representatives of Student Health Services, the Athletic Department and Student Government in early October, the students who sat on the committees bristled at what they called a rushed and haphazardly structured fee committee process.

Most of the pushback surrounded the decisions to switch from one super-committee that discussed all the fees to three committees that considered each individually. These committees proposed increases to the student health fee, activity and service fee and athletic fee that totaled $1.73, 38 cents more than the $1.35 cap imposed by state law.

Flowers said a meeting held Oct. 25 with President Judy Genshaft, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci and Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall had gone well and satisfied some of his concerns about the way the committee process is being conducted this year.

He said the proposal offered by him and other student leaders to bring the fee increase in line with the state cap – cutting the increase in the activity and service fee from 75 cents to 37 cents – was fully endorsed by the administrators present.

“We weren’t initially happy with the process, but the meeting went great and they were completely open to what we had to say,” Flowers said.

Meningall said that before the fees are considered next year, students and administrators will work together to create a mutually acceptable committee process.

“I don’t know how it will all turn out in the process, but my goal is that we document the agreed-upon process and follow that to the letter,” Meningall said.

James Lorello, a sophomore majoring in Religious Studies, had a mixed response to news about the potential fee increases.

“I don’t want to have to pay more money, but if it is going to help us win a National Championship and keep the Bull Runner going it needs to be done,” Lorello said. “I just don’t want these fees to continue to increase each year.”

Tony Dieppa, a senior majoring in Computer Science and Psychology, said he thought the size of the athletic fee increase was out of step with what the University’s priorities should be.

“The point of a university is purely academics,” Dieppa said. “If we focus more on athletics and forget the reason why we are here to begin with, we will quickly find ourselves behind in prestige compared to all other leading universities out there,” Dieppa said.

David Guidi can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or at