Bill mayallow forstudent-fee increases

Along with a likely rise in tuition this fall, USF students may see another increase in the fees they pay each semester.

USF’s local fee committee, comprised of three students and three faculty members, voted unanimously May 10 to raise the per credit hour fees students pay toward Activity and Service (A&S), Athletics and Health and Wellness by 15 percent compared to the 2009-10 amount. President Judy Genshaft and student body president Cesar Hernandez signed that recommendation on Wednesday, but it is not yet a done deal.

For the increase to take effect, it must still be approved by the Board of Trustees (BOT) Audit and Finance Workgroup on Thursday. It is also contingent on whether Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signs the Higher Education Conforming Bill that the Florida Legislature passed that grants all state university system institutions a one-time opportunity to raise local fees by up to 15 percent from the previous year.

Crist was presented with the measure May 13 and has 15 days to sign it into law or veto it.

Once the fee committee, which had already approved a five percent increase from last year’s rates, learned of the additional increase the bill allowed, it decided to re-evaluate it’s options.

Those options included rejecting any further increase and remaining at five percent, voting to raise the fees to a percentage between five and 15 percent or going to the maximum amount.

They chose the latter.

As a result, students could now pay a combined $4.64 more per credit hour for the three fees. Of that total, $1.97 each would go to A&S and Athletics, while 70 cents would go to Health, said committee chairwoman Joann Strobbe.

This means students would pay a total of nearly $170 more in 2010-11 for a 36-hour course load.

These three entities are projected to have about $4.5 million more at their disposal next year for various projects. To convince students on the committee to vote for an increase, representatives from the departments vowed to make sure students get their money’s worth.

The increase in A&S fees would be used to fund new equipment for the Campus Recreation Center’s expansion and for an earlier-than-expected completion of the Magnolia Drive intramural fields by October; Athletics intends to use the money for a new soccer stadium or tennis facility, as well as to have additional money for scholarships, video equipment and interns for sports medicine; and Health said it would add more faculty to the Counseling Center.

While it wasn’t easy for students on the committee to commit to raising their peers’ fees, some feel the benefits will outweigh the increase, even if their constituents don’t initially agree.

“Obviously, no one wants an increase in … any fee, so that reaction isn’t going to be good, but I’m hoping the accomplishments will overshadow it,” said Jennifer Belmont, senate president of Student Government (SG).

Hernandez said he had “complete trust” in the students on the committee to come to an agreement that will positively impact other students.

He signed the measure to show his support of their efforts.

“I am a messenger of the student body. Student representatives voted, they spoke and it is my job to stand behind the students, and that’s what I did,” he said.