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Student fees could increase next year

Student-paid fees may increase or stay the same this year, providing university departments with funding for projects and salaries.

It’s up to the Local Fee Committee (LFC), which is comprised of one-half faculty members and one-half Student Government (SG) members, to determine what course of action to take.

The LFC, which meets every academic year to determine whether to increase student-paid fees and where the extra money would be allocated, met for the first time Tuesday to hear fee-increase proposals from members of the Athletics, Health and Activity and Service (A&S) fee committees.

Once the state Legislature announces how high the University will be allowed to raise student fees, it will be up to the LFC to either accept or reject their proposals for the 2011-12 school year. They are allowed to raise fees the same percentage that the Legislature decides to raise tuition costs.

“We don’t know until the session in Tallahassee is over, which is the end of April, what the tuition increase will be,” said Joann Strobbe, chairwoman of the LFC, during the meeting. “So it would be my estimation that we will see the tuition increase, and we will have the opportunity to consider raising the fees.”

It was with this “estimation” in mind that the LFC, which is re-elected by the University and Student Government presidents every academic year, heard the three fee committees’ proposals. But the proposals could change once those committees are notified that the LFC abolished a previously adopted allocation method after proposals were heard at the meeting.

Last year’s LFC voted in favor of a recommendation made by University President Judy Genshaft that would allocate 50 percent of the overall adopted fee increase to one of the three departments every three years. This would allow the Athletics, Health and A&S fee committees to plan on having enough money every three years to “do something major,” Strobbe said, and “create that wow factor.”

However, this year, the committee voted against the idea to allow future committees more freedom when allocating funds because the amount of money available to the departments could vary greatly depending on how the state Legislature votes.

“We have flexibility with the number percentage,” said LFC student representative and SG Senate President Jennifer Belmont. “(Legislators) aren’t really guaranteeing the 5 percent increase every year … The year they decide that (the increase) is two percent, whoever happens to be up that year for the 50 percent (increase) is definitely not going to get nearly as much as (the department) who received (50 percent of) 5 percent. Say that department is Athletics, they’re getting pretty much gypped out of the money.”

Strobbe said an e-mail will be sent to the three groups informing them of the decision and providing them with the opportunity to present a new proposal at their next meeting Feb. 10.

Until a new request is presented, Athletics Director Doug Woolard requested a $1.10 per credit hour increase for the Athletics Fee, the largest request of the three departments, to fund projects such as student internship programs within the Athletics department, increased scholarship and grant awards for athletes, new medical equipment and additional marketing campaigns.

Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Alan Kent presented a proposal for an 89 cent per credit hour increase to the Health Fee that would provide additional funding for the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention and a potential Wellness facility. The money would also be used to hire two new psychologists for the Counseling Center and a case manager for the Students of Concern Assistance Team.

Andrew Cohen, student representative for the Division of Student Affairs, proposed raising the A&S fee by 58 cents per credit hour to expand programs in the Center for Civic Leadership and Engagement and allow the Campus Recreation and Marshall Student Center to be completely funded by the fee.

Strobbe said the state Legislature usually allows universities the option of raising their student fees by 5 percent every academic year. Last year, however, they were allowed to raise the fees by up to 15 percent, allowing universities that did not elect to increase its fees in the past to make up additional funding.

If the LFC is allotted its usual 5 percent increase, it will be allowed to raise the Local Fee, or the total amount of student-paid Athletics, Health and A&S fees, by $1.77 per credit hour. This would mean that students would pay $36.08 in Local Fees per credit hour.

Last academic year, students paid $34.31 in Local Fees per credit hour after the LFC took advantage of a $4.64 increase – $1.97 went to A&S fees, $1.97 went to the Athletic fee and 70 cents went to Health fees. All fee increases made by the LFC are recurring, Strobbe said.

“Once this committee recommends the fee increase and it is allocated, then we present this to the (University) president and the SG president. If they both accept, then it becomes official and it’s pledged that forevermore,” she said.

Strobbe said “prioritizing” the proposals is the hardest task the committee faces. Usually, student interest, determined by the SG committee members, is the deciding factor in the allocation process.

The next LFC meetings will be held Feb. 10 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Feb. 22 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Room 2703.