Many students would pay about $90 more in fees each semester next academic year if the Board of Trustees approves a plan administrators proposed this week.
The proposed increases include $60 more for health insurance and a $10 increase in the student activity fee for graduate and undergraduate students, university officials told a meeting of the Graduate and Professional Student Council Tuesday.
The proposed increase would raise student fees by $89.80 to $1,769.14 with the health insurance fee, according to a spreadsheet administrators gave the council.
Chancellor Rita Cheng said officials worked hard to keep fees as low as possible for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, but declining enrollment made it difficult.
“Part of some of the fee structures are there are (fewer students) paying than there were five or six years ago,” she said. “If we can build that enrollment base, we can also help with the fee structure.”
A $10 increase in the student activity fee will help bring more interesting programs to campus, said Don Castle, Student Center associate director for programs.
He said the money will go to the Student Programming Council, which Don Castle, Student Center associate director for programs, said the proposed $10 student activity fee increase would go toward the Student Programming Council. The council is funded by part of the student activity fee, but it ‘s not enough, Castle said. The new fee would leave the $125,000 SPC now gets available for other groups, he said.
“The Student Programming Council would gain a consistent source of funding that would be adequate to meet the needs currently,” he said. “Other RSOs, other student organizations, other programs would get access to another $125,000 for programming events on campus.”
The fee could provide more large-scale events and generate collaboration among student organizations, he said.
“The activity fee has not gone up near enough on this campus to be competitive,” he said. “Right now, we have the lowest student activity fee in the state of Illinois among the state schools.”
Castle said even with the increase, the university’s fee would still be the smallest among state schools.
Phil Gatton, Plant and Service Operations director, said the Facility Maintenance Fee was started in 2007 to address the university’s backlog of deferred maintenance, which is about half a billion dollars.
“The university basically wasn’t getting enough money from the state to be able to protect its assets, so we created the fee,” he said. “The fee is, unfortunately, used sometimes to do things people don’t see.”
Gatton said Lawson Hall’s new roof was an example of the fee’s usefulness. The Pulliam Pool renovation will also be paid for with the fee money.
“We’re playing a catch-up game, and I think you’re going to start seeing some of the benefits,” he said.
The increase will be $6, or 2.8 percent, Gatton said.
Although the student health fee will stay the same next year, the fee for insurance will go up $60, or 17.4 percent, Ted Grace, director of the Student Health Center, said.
“We’re having large claims against the plan over time, and over the past three years the claims have gone up 11 percent, which is a considerable amount for the insurance plans,” Grace said. “On top of that, the pool of people enrolled in the plan has gone down.”
Only 30 percent of students are insured by the plan, he said.
“When we went online with the ability to waive out of the plan, we actually saw a 10 percent decrease right there,” he said. “The fact that we continue to have decreased enrollment also affects it.”
The increase will allow the health center to build insurance money reserves, he said.
“It will allow us to go in the right direction,” he said. “If our projections hold true, we think we will be able to add over $200,000 in this next year back into the reserves and start to build them up slowly over time.”
David Crane, assistant provost and chief information officer, said information technology infrastructure has been neglected.
“We’ve got 30-year-old cable in the ground that had 20 year expected life,” he said. “We have 35-year-old air conditioners in the data centers, just a lot of infrastructure improvement that is need. That’s not very glamorous, that’s not what people see.”
The technology fee will increase $7.80 to $82.20 for a student taking 12 credit hours, or $102 for 15 credit hours.
“We’re behind because we haven’t put any funding or effort into information technology,” he said.
The fee is actually overcommitted, Crane said, and the university’s IT budget was in the red last year. The fee covers the Banner system, which is the student information system the university runs. Banner is now undergoing a hardware upgrade. The fee also covers parts of SalukiNet and Desire2Learn, as well as Internet connectivity.
Mario Moccia, athletics director, said the athletic fee would go up $6, a 2 percent increase. The program relies on student fees, but tries to keep them down, he said.
“Some of the things we do to try to mitigate (fees) is to raise money for tickets, raise money for athletic scholarships, things like that,” he said.
Moccia said travel costs have increased nearly 20 percent this year, and student wages totaled nearly $300,000. The athletics department also partially funds the Marching Salukis.
The department cut five positions last year, which created $175,000 in savings, he said. Another eight positions are vacant and will not be filled, which creates more than $230,000 in savings. However, any positions that pertain to safety, such as security at games, will be filled, he said.
In addition to fee increases, the cost of living and eating on campus will also go up.
Dining plans will increase 3.5 percent, rent at Wall and Grand will go up 3 percent, and Evergreen Terrace rents will rise 4 percent increase, Jon Shaffer, University Housing director, said.
The overall University Housing rate increase will be 3.6 percent. Last year it went up 4.1 percent.
Jon Shaffer, University Housing director, reintroduced the University Housing master plan, an overhaul of the east side of campus the university will borrow $175 million to fund. Both the towers and Southern Hills will be demolished, and potential projects include new housing facilities and possible retirement housing, Schaffer said.
Increases planned for each year will allow the university to pay off the project’s debt, he said. During this budget year, the plan’s second year, the department was supposed to increase housing rates by 6 percent, but Shaffer said his office was able to shave the increase to 5 percent.
“My department and my staff have worked very hard to bring that in as only a 5 percent increase,” he said. “A 1 percent increase is not going to make or break the university, I assure you, but it is a demonstration that we are very sensitive about how much we’re charging folks to live with us.”
Blaine Tisdale, GPSC president, said he thought both students and campus leaders communicated well.
“(The meeting) is a great opportunity for them to come and present their case, and then for representatives be able to ask the questions,” Tisdale said. “The great part about (the meeting) was there were folks from all over campus and all the different programs, and they were representing a ton of different perspectives. I think they made the most of the opportunity we had.”