Despite the administration’s decision to increase student fees, the Graduate and Professional Student Council has proposed another plan: a $500 fee decrease.
In response to a proposed increase in student fees beginning this fall, a motion to approve an alternate fees proposal to university officials passed at the council’s meeting Tuesday night. In support of the GPSC’s proposal, the Undergraduate Student Government voted for a fee decrease at its Tuesday meeting. Before the GPSC made its decision, Chancellor Rita Cheng addressed the council members’ concerns over student fees.
“The fee discussion that my staff had with each of the units that came forward was lengthy, the budget discussions were difficult and the end result was as conservative as we thought we could present to you,” Cheng said.
Information provided by GPSC President Carl Bloom states the university is planning to increase fees from $1,621.94 to $1,679.24, a 3.54 percent increase. Included in that $57.40 increase is a $32 increase in the student insurance fee, which Undergraduate Student Government President Spencer Tribble said the senators supported. The GPSC voted to increase even more than the university’s proposal by $5, to make it a $350 fee, but the council recommended the Board of Trustees look for an extended coverage option.
However, the groups showed opposition toward many of the other fees.
“We are doing the alternate fees proposal, despite what the chancellor told us about keeping them in control,” Bloom said after Cheng’s discussion of the fees.
The proposal to reduce student fees by $500 is more of a negotiating tool, Bloom said, because he said he doesn’t think the administration will remove it.
“But if we could get any reduction, that would be a win for us,” he said.
Tribble said some USG senators shared a similar understanding that proposing a big cut would show the group’s concern over the fees, but the USG didn’t propose a $500 cut, or reduction of 28 percent of total student fee costs. Instead, USG approved a recommendation for a 2 percent reduction.
Yet, Tribble said USG supports the GPSC in its decision. By the GPSC’s recommendation of a $500 cut, he said, students may be more successful at receiving a $200 cut.
“So in the end, it’s a way to push the administration,” he said.
Tribble said the Board of Trustees is set to vote on the issue of raising fees at its March 22 meeting.
As a separate but related item at the USG meeting, the senators approved a recommendation to increase the Student Programming Council fee by $10. Tribble said if it is approved by the Board of Trustees, the fee will save USG and the GPSC from distributing funds to the SPC.
“That way, we’ll be able to give other RSOs more opportunities to come and request funding,” he said.
He said the most recent amount the USG distributed to the SPC was $60,000.
The GPSC’s proposed decrease in fees came with debate over whether the council would be making a reasonable recommendation. A committee was formed to develop the proposal, Bloom said, that came up with the proposed total to reduce fees by 28 percent, from $1,621.94 to $1,164.40.
Geoffrey Grammer, a GPSC council member, suggested to reduce the athletics fee from its current $292 to something more like $250 because it would be more reasonable than the $50 the council approved to propose. He said if he were to receive such a proposal, it might look like the group was just saying it’s displeased.
“If you look at the bottom line, it’s reasonable,” Bloom said. “Because the bottom line puts us back in line with other schools.”
Bloom said most other schools in Illinois have about $1,000 in fees.
Information provided by the council shows the university plans to increase seven of 15 student fees. The difference in increases range from no change at all to a $32 increase in student insurance, which Cheng explained is because of state medical coverage costs, not the university.
Cheng said the reason for the proposed increase in almost half of the student fees was to deal with costs that were incurred in those areas, such as building repair or for costs incurred because of contracts that were settled in the fall.
Christopher Paone, a GPSC council member, said he was concerned about the administration passing fees on to students and workers. He said over the past 10 years, fees at SIUC have almost tripled.
“There seems to be this kind of antagonistic relationship in terms of the money,” he said. “It makes me wonder, where is the end in sight? Or is the plan just to keep doing that forever?”
Cheng said if past administrators had raised fees, students wouldn’t have such a large increase in them today.
“If you don’t do it little by little, you hit one generation of students very hard, and then the next nine get off kind of scot-free,” she said. “So there is a sense of equity happening when the students who are here now pay for the some of the costs.”
While the university is proposing to increase the athletics fee to $301, the GPSC proposed the fee be $50.
“We’re happy to support athletics to a degree, but this is a little bit unconscionable, I think,” Paone said.
Cheng said a large part of the athletics fee goes toward a bond that was sold about five years ago. She said because of that, the fee is locked in for the next 20 years.
The other costs associated with athletics and the reason it went up this year, Cheng said, is because of an increase in tuition, which caused an increase in the price of scholarships for athletes.
“If tuition goes up, the cost for athletics goes up. Somebody has to pay,” Cheng said. “I know you’re not a fan, but the costs of having a Division I athletics department are considerable.”
Bloom said some council members did research on how athletics programs at other schools are funded and found many that included little to no athletic fee. He said students pay no athletics fee at Murray State University, which he said has the top-ranked university athletic program in the country.
Cheng said all of those programs would have to be getting some outside support in order to run.
Bloom said at the current rate, students are putting $6 million per semester into the athletics program at SIUC.
“Athletics is a big business,” she said. “You go deep into the tournament, big money comes to the university. If you don’t win, and you don’t go to the tournament, you suffer.”