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Student fee increases remain undecided

Towards the end of USF’s Local Fee Committee (LFC) meeting Thursday, members agreed to adjourn to ponder a possible fee increase for the next academic year.

Jennifer Belmont, the Senate president and a student representative on the committee, which offers a recommendation on how to raise student fees every year, was one of seven members who wished to see student fees stay the same.

Currently, students pay $11.28 per credit hour in Activity and Service (A&S) fees, $9.30 per credit hour in Health fees and $13.73 per credit hour in Athletics fees.

“I personally don’t think there should be an increase,” she said during the meeting. “A 15 percent just happened (last year). That’s triple and we want to go 5 percent of the likelihood of it going higher is just something that I don’t think we need right now.”

Merrell Dickey, an administrative representative on the LFC, disagreed with Belmont from a business perspective. He said he believed that raising fees will help the University in the long-term.

“I do think we need to be careful we don’t become shortsighted,” he said during the meeting. “Some of the initiatives that (representatives of the fees) are talking about do present a wow factor. We have to go after private funding (from students). The thing we need to figure … is the long term goals.”

Dickey, director of the Office of Development at the USF Library, said he is not for the full 5 percent – or $1.77 – increase that the Board of Governors has allowed the University to enact if it’s not used efficiently.

“The picture is bigger than simply saying, ‘Let’s not do it,'” he said. “I’m favoring targeting (items) or at least having that conversation.”

The representatives for each fee were asked to submit their top two priorities for how they would spend any extra money in student fees.

Gary Manka, Student Government (SG) adviser and representative for the A&S fee increase, said if the fee was raised $0.43 per credit hour, the money would go towards the Marshall Student Center to become fully A&S fee-funded and the Leadership Civic Center.

Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Alan Kent said a $0.35 per hour increase in Health fees would go to the Victim Advocacy Program and hiring two psychologists for the Wellness Center to increase staffing and ensure a “prompt and effective response to all students with mental health, counseling or personal needs,” according to his request form.

Athletics Director Doug Woolard said a $0.42 per hour increase would go towards athletics scholarships and the summer grant aid program for student athletes taking summer courses.

Belmont said she disagreed with the A&S fee committee’s priorities.

“I understand where it’s coming from and I understand that certain members of SG collaborated with them. I just don’t think they are the correct priority,” she said. “I think Magnolia Fields restrooms and outside basketball court have a better chance than the rest of these.”

Prior to the meeting, Manka submitted a $0.63 fee increase request. Woolard submitted a $1.10 increase and Kent requested a $0.89 increase.

Ken Getty, a student representative on the LFC, said he suggested a 2 percent increase to be split between the Athletics and Health fee – meaning a $0.35 increase for each fee. The committee will vote on his proposal during their meeting Feb. 22.

He proposed that $0.35 go towards the athletics scholarship program, with $0.24 and $0.11 allocated towards the summer grant aid program. The other $0.35 would go towards the health fee, with the victim advocacy program receiving $0.21 and $0.14 going towards the hiring of the two psychologists.

Luis Visot, an administrative member of the LRC, said during the meeting that Getty’s proposal wouldn’t be sufficient for the departments.

“Just because these are the top priorities, it doesn’t mean the others are not important,” said Visot, executive director of the Joint Military Science Leadership Center.

Woolard said it’s too soon to tell how the fee increase will work.

“They’ll have more discussions later,” he said. “I think it would be premature to make any comment now until we see how the committee moves forward.”

Kent said he hopes the LRC would choose to take on his two priorities, as well as fund the hiring of an additional case manager to respond to students in distress.

“I particularly would like them to vote the top three priorities,” he said. “I think that’s really important. We get 12 new referrals weekly, and having just one person just doesn’t provide the right follow-up we want.”

Manka said there is nothing representatives can do since the discussion is between the committee members. If the members had reached a tie on the motion during the meeting, Chairwoman Joann Strobbe would step in to make the tiebreaking vote.

“It’s the committee – made up of staff and students – the committee voted and there’s no reason for the chairwoman to make a vote (on tabling the motion),” Manka said. “It is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.”