Student senate hears fee proposal

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor

Student senators discussed a proposal to adjust the student fees for the fall 2017 semester and voted no confidence in the only candidate for speaker of the senate at their meeting Wednesday night.

Mark Hudson, the director of housing and dining, filled in for Lynette Drake, the interim associate vice president of student affairs and presented a proposal to adjust the student cap for health services and increase the fee for the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union student fee.

Hudson said every year all the fee-funded areas are evaluated based on the series of how the levels of service are going, as well as their financial status.

At this point, Hudson said the administration is dealing with a “math problem” in the fee-funded areas.

“With our shrinking enrollment, which is down 24 percent over five years, the income from fees have shrunk by that amount,” Hudson said. “So that means the fee-funded areas are struggling to deliver service(s) to the level that students desire.”

Hudson said the first thing they were told to do was conserve dollars by reducing staff or combining people’s responsibilities.

However, Hudson said at some point they cannot make cuts and still expect to deliver the same service students want.

Hudson said for the last couple of years, the administration has been making adjustments with the fees and spreading those adjustments out over the years to deal with the decline in enrollment.

But for eight years, Hudson said the student health service fee and Union fee have not been increased.

Currently, the student health fee is the only fee capped at nine credit hours and Hudson said the recommendation is not to increase the fee but move the cap to 12 credit hours so it matches all other fees.

“A cap means that if you are a full-time student and if this fee is $10.10 an hour then it caps out at $90.90,” Hudson said. “What we want to do is we want to cap it at 12, which means it will be an extra $30.30 added for a full-time student.”

Hudson said this one move will increase the cost of attendance for a student by $30.30 and it will result in an increase in the fee structure of 2.2 percent.

“So based on fall’s enrollment that would generate about $197,000,” Hudson said.

Because there is a projected shortfall within student health of about $200,000, Hudson said this adjustment will help off set the shortfall as well as restore several services.

“Over the past several years we reduced the (student health operations) by $500,000, which includes a reduction of 8 positions or 29 percent of the staff,” Hudson said.

As for the Union fee, Hudson said they are considering an increase by an additional $3.64, which would increase the cost of attendance by $43.70 for a full time student.

“That would represent a 3.2 percent increase for student fees,” Hudson said. “So based on 2015 enrollment numbers, that would generate about $284,000 for the fall semester.”

As of right now, the Union’s operation is running a little more than $750,000 in the red and this would take care of that issue and help the cash flow work better, Hudson said.

“The Union has been very active in reducing their staffing,” Hudson said. “In the past five years, 11 positions have been reduced or 44 percent of their staffing so this has made it very difficult to run this building.”

Hudson also pointed out that the deficit becomes harder to recover from as operation costs continue to rise and cash flow from student fees decreases as a result of declining enrollment

Overall, the total fee increase will be a 5.4 percent of student fees from these two areas and represent $74 that a full-time student has to pay a year, Hudson said.

This proposal was met with some debate.

Senator Felicia Wagner asked why the increase had to be so high and suggested a smaller increase for both fees.

Wagner said as a student who pays entirely for her college career, the increases are too high.

“It looks like a small amount until you actually calculate it,” Wagner said. “It will affect everybody, or at least students like me.”

Although Hudson said the Student Government can recommend whatever they want, they have to consider the trade-off.

“If you suggest (a lower fee increase), what service do you want less of?” Hudson asked. “We all like a lower number but this review is based on how can we help keep the services going that students are currently wanting.”

Hudson said he understands it is expensive to go to school but said it was expensive to run services as well.

“If we don’t have the money we have to make adjustments accordingly,” Hudson said.

The Student Senate will vote on the proposal next week before it moves on to the Board of Trustees.

The senate nominated two new candidates for speaker of the senate after voting no confidence in the previous candidate.

Senator Christopher Pickard was running for speaker but did not win because senators were concerned about his shyness.

Senator Eliza Coleman said although she believes Pickard is a great leader for the Student Government, her main concern was how he would handle recruitment because he said he was quiet.

Wagner said Pickard was the first person who made her feel welcome in student senate and he could grow into the leadership role.

However, Courtney Sage, the student vice president for student affairs, said she was worried he did not have the ideas set forth to take the position.

“I also ran unopposed (for speaker of the senate); however I came in with a full out proposal and I wanted to convey my ideas immediately,” Sage said. “What worries me is that I did not see that in the platform last week, I didn’t see development and although you can learn how to do certain things the ideas need to be there first.”

Pickard said he was the right candidate and knows he could do the job.

“It’s easy for people to criticize when they are not putting themselves out there,” Pickard said. “The other candidates did not follow the process and I have no confidence in them.”

Pickard received ten votes of no confidence and four votes of approval.

Five senators abstained from voting.

Since the senate suspended the bylaws they were able to nominate Coleman and Senator Haley Tellier for speaker.

The senate will vote on a speaker next week.


Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or achaynes