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University reps recommend student fees increase

For the first time since the 2004-05 school year, the student-paid Activity & Service (A&S) per-credit-hour fee will not increase, though students may still see a rise in Health and Athletics fees for 2011-12.

The Local Fee Committee (LFC), composed of Chairwoman Joann Strobbe, three student representatives and three administrative representatives, voted 5 to 1 during its Tuesday meeting to recommend a 43 cents-per-credit-hour increase to the Health fee and a 42 cents-per-credit-hour increase to the Athletics fee to USF President Judy Genshaft.

Increases to the Health fee, which is managed by Wellness USF, would use a 21 cents-per-credit-hour-increase to help fund the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, a 14 cents-per-credit-hour increase to hire two psychologists for the Counseling Center and an 8 cents-per-credit-hour increase to hire a new case manager for the Students of Concern Assistance Team.

The increase to the Athletics fee would allocate a 24 cents-per-credit-hour increase toward athletic scholarships and an 18 cents-per-credit-hour increase to the summer grant-in-aid for student athletes taking classes.

Student Government (SG) Senate President Jennifer Belmont, an LFC student representative, said she didn’t want to see any increases to student fees, and was the sole committee member to vote against the recommendation.

“There’s no guarantee that we’re going to lose any type of program or faculty member … but (school officials) have this scare factor to get more fees … because they were scared of other (possible federal) budget cuts,” she said. “I think it’s irresponsible after raising (student fees) 15 percent (last year). That’s my strong opinion on it, and I know a lot of students have that opinion.”

During the previous LFC meeting Feb. 10, SG adviser Gary Manka, who presented a plan for A&S fee increases to the committee, had to indicate two priority projects the Activity and Service Recommendation Committee (ASRC) would spend the additional money on.

ASRC asked for the Marshall Student Center to become fully A&S fee funded and additional funding for the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement – neither of which Belmont thought warranted an increase.

“The Marshall (Student) Center will be run regardless. It’s a luxury item in my opinion,” she said during the meeting. “It would be a really big issue with the students,with nothing that has a ‘wow’ factor.”

Manka said not awarding the A&S fee increase may make sense now, but could limit the entities’ operations next year.

“My own personal philosophy is that when we look at context … we have to look at the broader context and make sure that the University as a whole doesn’t suffer because of an act on a shortsighted context,” he said. “So, in time, we will know.”

Manka submitted a 63 cents-per-credit-hour increase for the A&S fee.

“I think that (Genshaft) would like us to consider more than a 2 percent (student fee increase),” Strobbe said during the meeting. “We never spoke about the A&S fee. She did not give me indication of how she would like it allocated. In the years I’ve been chairing it, she has never gone against the committee once the recommendation has been made.”

Nonetheless, Strobbe said the 85-cent increase recommendation must be approved by Genshaft before it is enacted.

“I really think the economy has been challenging, not only for the students who actually had tuition increases and fee increases, but also for the departments who had budget reductions from the state. So there has been a push and pull,” she said. “I really wanted to see a compromise and this is about a 2.5 percent increase, and I think the committee made a good compromise to listen to each other.”

Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Alan Kent, who originally requested an 89 cents-per-credit-hour increase, said he was happy with the outcome.

“I’m very pleased because they agreed to fund some critical Health and Wellness needs that will serve our students,” he said. “Every dollar will go to hiring staff that will work directly with students.”

Athletics Director Doug Woolard said even though his original request was for a $1.10 per-credit-hour increase, the department can still support students with the smaller amount.

“We have a lot of needs that we have requested,” he said. “(For) these two areas, if tuition increases at 5 percent, that will allow us to continue providing the same scholarships and support we have in the past. We had a lot of needs that we had looked at as essential needs. At least this takes care of the scholarship needs, depending on what the state tuition increases (are).”

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