UPUA President Terry Ford and GPSA President Kevin Horne (also an Onward State editor) invited students to apply for at-large seats on the newly-formed Student Fee Board last week. If you were worried the Student Fee Board already has some skeletons in its collective closet, fear not. This week, despite unfounded reports of lack of transparency, Ford presented to the assembly about the Student Fee Board during a Committee of the Whole session at the end of the UPUA meeting. Ford said he hopes the new Board will be in place in time to meet by the end of November.
Current Student Fee Structure
Basically, student fees are the mandatory fees every student pays in addition to their tuition each semester. The student fees at University Park are currently divided into three categories: activities, facilities, and information technology (IT). For 2016-2017, the student fees total $474 per semester or $948 per year.
“Because they’re non-academic, many times these things care considered to be non-essential,” Ford said.
Under the current student fee structure, here’s how each of the fees is allocated:
- Facilities Fee — Allocated by Facilities Fee Advisory Committee (FFAC), which is co-chaired by the GPSA and UPUA presidents. The amount of the fee is based on a certain percentage of tuition costs, not directly determined by the FFAC.
- Activities Fee — Allocated by the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC). The amount of the fee is determined by Student Activity Fee Board, which includes the presidents of GPSA, UPUA, and CCSG as well as the UPAC Chairperson.
- Information Technology Fee — There is limited information available on the IT fee, which is part of the problem. According to its website, “IT-Fee funded services have a daily impact on the academic, research, and cocurricular pursuits of students.” You can see the full report here, but it doesn’t go into detail on how the fee is allocated or how the annual fee amount is determined. Ford said in his presentation, however, that it funds necessary student technologies like LionPATH (eye roll).
One issue Ford noted is not everything currently included under the student activities fee should be classified as part of student activities. “For instance, why is there a debt from when I was three years old in the Student Activities Fee?” Ford said, referring to a portion of the activities fee dedicated to paying off the 1998 HUB renovations. “A centralized, one-fee system has a lot of benefits that I think address some of the problems here.”
New Student Fee Structure
Under the new student fee structure, the Student Fee Board will impose one overall fee, dubbed the Student Initiated Fee, which the Board will calculate annually to include expenses in four categories: activities, facilities, recreation, and services. Students will see only the Student Initiated Fee category on the Bursar tuition bill. Ideally, there will also be a link to a website with a rundown on how the fees are determined and allocated.
“The IT fee actually will be rolled into tuition,” Ford said, because the IT fee funds things like Angel, Canvas, and LionPATH that are vital to a student’s education.
UPUA representatives also asked for some clarification on the fee structure:
- Under the facilities category, a large-scale project would be something like renovating the HUB or the IM building, while a small-scale project would be something like installing hydration stations.
- Some recreation funds come from student fees and some come from the university’s general budget, so the Board will be tasked with finding the appropriate balance.
- Standing allocations like funds for Homecoming and UPUA will come directly from the Student Fee Board rather than passing through UPAC.
- UPAC’s allocation process will remain unchanged despite the new student fee structure. The Student Fee Board will be responsible for any UPAC appeals from organizations who feel the allocation process was not followed fairly; the Student Activity Fee Board currently holds this responsibility.
Ford referenced a draft handbook for the Student Fee Board, but explained that members of the first Board will be able to help finalize the handbook after they are appointed.
Student Fee Board Structure
The Student Fee Board will be made up of both voting and non-voting members from both student government and non-student government backgrounds.
- Voting (total 12 members)
- UPUA President
- GPSA President
- 3 UPUA Presidential Appointees
- 2 GPSA Presidential Appointees
- 5 At-Large Members
- Non-Voting (total 4 members)
- UPAC Chair
- Vice President for Student Affairs
- Senior Vice President for Finance and Business
- Executive Vice President and Provost
In addition to those in non-voting roles, other administrators may be asked to present to the Board to provide deeper insight on specific functions of the university. Ford said the Board will likely meet 3-4 times per semester, but could meet more often as necessary. “The goal is to have a meeting later this month for the first time, he said. “It’s been a long time coming, but that’s the goal.”
As for meetings, the entire Board will meet as a whole, rather than splitting into committees corresponding to the four fee categories. Ford explained this is so members of the Board aren’t voting on one category alone without understanding the implications it may have on the Student Initiated Fee as a whole.
“Preference is supposed to be given to non-student government members,” Ford said of the at-large seats. “If you’re selected for an at-large seat this year, you don’t automatically get it next year.” After this year, the application process for at-large members will ideally occur around the same time student government officials are elected.