University departments hope fees increase

Students and faculty on a University fee committee are weighing two options: refrain from increasing student fees or raise them for the seventh consecutive year.

Representatives who spoke at a Wednesday committee meeting hope for the latter.

Members of the Activity and Service (A&S), Athletic, and Student Health Fee Recommendation Committee heard proposals to increase fee amounts for the 2010-11 academic year that stay within the 5 percent combined increase allowed by state legislation.

The total student fee rate is made up of three components: A&S, Athletic and Health fees. A 5 percent increase would raise total student fees, which are paid at the time of registration, by $1.54.

At the meeting, representatives Jason LaBerge (A&S), Doug Woolard (Athletic) and Alan Kent (Health) presented arguments addressing how an increase would benefit the University.

An increase in funds would help USF compete with other universities, said LaBerge, the fiscal agent for the Student Government (SG) A&S business office, in his presentation.

“We need to look at where USF wants to be in the future,” LaBerge said. “This is to build the University … We might not be able to match their programs dollar for dollar, but we can still be competitive.”

This academic year, the A&S fee is $9.31 per student credit hour (SCH). Students also pay a $7 A&S flat fee. The projected revenue from the A&S fee is about $9.2 million.

Each year, state legislation allows the committee to decide whether to increase student fees up to 5 percent. USF has raised them every year since 2003-04, when the total fee rate was $23.14 per SCH – $7.81 less than students paid this semester.

Last year, the committee increased the fees by 4.99 percent. However, representatives said another increase would further their services.

With funds from the increase, students could see improvements to the Campus Recreation Center, such as expansion and new exercise equipment, LaBerge said.

Students paid an $11.76 Athletic Fee per SCH this academic year. The University also charges a $10 Athletic flat fee. The 2009-10 projected revenue from the Athletic Fee is $11.9 million.

“Our athletic program really sells our University,” said Woolard, the athletics director. “We have a great opportunity now that we’re in the Big East conference.”

The athletic department hopes to provide more scholarships to potential athletes and maintain costs of the athletics program, Woolard said.

Student Affairs hopes to implement programs geared toward maintaining students’ mental health, following a nationally-adopted model implemented after the Virginia Tech shootings two years ago, said Kent, assistant director of Student Affairs for Health and Wellness.

“With a university this size, we could have anywhere from 40 to 50 students per year be admitted to mental institutions,” Kent said. “We want to help these students stay in school and stay successful. We don’t want any students falling through the cracks.”

Students paid a $8.60 Health Fee per SCH this year. The 2009-10 projected revenue from the Student Health Fee is $7.9 million.

A Health Fee increase is mandated by the state, but the significance of all the fees makes the decision harder, said SG Vice President Bruno Portigliatti.

“It’s tough, because all of these groups are so important … the recreation facility affects the student body directly, so that’s something big to take into consideration,” Portigliatti said. “Athletics has a huge impact on the student body.”

The committee will meet today at 2:30 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Room 232 to discuss Wednesday’s presentations.

“We now have to go line item by line item and see if there’s a dire need for the money to be allocated this year or if (lesser allocations) can be done next year,” Portigliatti said.

On Monday, the committee will finalize the recommended budget to be approved by USF President Judy Genshaft, SG President Juan Soltero and the University Board of Trustees.

– Additional reporting by Kelli Polson