Increasing student fees is a topic that has brought an abundance of opinions from students, faculty and the Board of Trustees lately.
While Board of Trustee members and Undergraduate Student Government members say the student voice is crucial in the decision process of fee increases, many students have said leaders don’t consider their voice.
At many universities, including SIUC, the board hears the voice and opinion of students through USG and the elected student trustee.
When departments on campus propose a fee increase to USG, the senate members vote whether they will support it. If the senate approves it, the SIU Board of Trustees considers that support to be student body support in its entirety, which can influence their final decision.
Jesse Cler, a senior from Penfield studying agribusiness economics and SIUC student trustee, said while he understands there is no way he can get to know every student on campus, he makes a conscious effort to go around campus and introduce himself to as many students as possible in order to understand their views on fees.
Cler said the trustees are always thinking about the best interest of the students when they make decisions on matters that directly affect them, and he said students should know he is always available to talk.
“We understand that the cost of education is constantly going up, and I try to get to know the average student personally to get their feedback on fees
and tuition because not every student agrees with USG or myself on every issue,” Cler said.
Fees at SIUC have increased by 293 percent since the 2002-2003 academic year. The mandatory student fees at SIUC for the 2012- 2013 fiscal year total $1,769.14 per semester for a student taking 15 credit hours compared to the $602.40 the
same student would have paid in 2002, according to SIU Institutional Research and Studies.
Tyler Chance, a senior from West Frankfort studying political science, said he conducted a research assignment for his final project in a political science class this semester about student fee increases and student opinions. Chance said while he is not for or against any specific fee, he does think there should be a direct democratic choice of new student fees by the students themselves.
At Tuesday’s USG meeting, Chance said he does not think the group does an adequate job of representing the students.
“I think as far as being the voice of the student body, I don’t know if the job is getting done, honestly, considering I’m a student and tried numerous times to get in contact with members of the government and no one got back to us, and some of the email addresses listed online were incorrect,” Chance said.
Chance said he tried to contact several members of USG while conducting his project, but none of the members returned his calls or emails.
The decision by USG to support the increase of the Student Activity Fee in November was a conflict of interest, Chance said. The fee increase would allow the Student Programming
Council to have more money in their budget to host more events on campus, as well as save USG $120,000 annually.
“Giving yourself more money to place back in your budget, which you have the choice to allocate to who you want, is giving USG a lot of power,” Chance said.
USG President Brittany Greathouse said at Tuesday’s meeting she never received any calls or emails from Chance, but she assured him that the $120,000 will be used to provide funding for various Registered Student Organizations’ events.
Mark Hinrichs, Board of Trustees secretary, said he is always sensitive to the voice of students, as well as the money students and their parents pay for tuition and fees.
“Unfortunately, we’re put in the position to have to raise tuition and fees so that the university can continue to grow and provide necessary resources needed to make students successful, but we definitely want that interaction from students so we can hear directly from them how they feel about the cost of their education,” Hinrichs said.
SIU President Glenn Poshard said because of state budget cuts, fee’s must be assessed to keep the university running.
“Fees such as technology and facilities maintenance fees are necessary to maintain the technology that we need to advance our studies and our teaching as well as our repairs building maintenance,” Poshard said. “These are important to the university so we can provide quality programs.”
Poshard said of all the public research institutions in Illinois, SIUC remains the lowest in tuition and fees, and SIUE is the lowest in the state of all public colleges and universities.
Hinrichs said students don’t always realize that they need to get involved and should never feel like their voice is unheard to the trustees.
“The students are most important here, because without them there would be no university, so they should know how hard we look at every aspect of the fee while voting,” Hinrichs said.
USG is the student voice for many universities in the Midwest, including the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Southeast Missouri State University and SIUE.
Lora Miles, associate vice chancellor of student affairs for SIUE, said the process of fee increases is basically the same at the Edwardsville campus as it is in Carbondale.
“I think the USG decision has a strong impact on the decision of the the fee increases because the organization is made up completely of students, so the trustees literally take their vote as the student vote,” Miles said.
Cathy Foland, an employee in the SIUE bursar office, said the university’s mandatory fees have increased from the 2002-2003 fiscal year amount of $369.30 to $1,151.45 for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which is a 311 percent increase.
Cler said in comparison to other universities in the state, SIUC has a bigger campus and more students, so the cost of tuition and fees has to be a little more expensive.
“We have a bigger, more diverse campus that we have to accommodate, and in order to keep up and maintain the necessities of the campus, our fees have to be a little more,” Cler said. “I think in comparison to other universities, we are a lot more financially stable.”
Cler said he thinks most students would choose to never increase fees, but he thinks the increases in the long run have a positive impact on the university as a whole, including the students.
Mary Johnson, a senior from Elmhurst studying Spanish, said she transferred to SIUC from U of I last fall because the cost of tuition was cheaper, but the fees at SIU have been equal, she said.
“U of I was really expensive, and I was relying solely on loans and scholarships,” she said. “I understand the administration is always trying to improve campus as much as possible, but they should realize they’re not the ones who have to foot the bill, so in my opinion the decision should be completely up to us, and if we don’t want a better campus, we should have that choice.”
Chance said he set up a petition online to support the idea of taking a vote of the entire student body about fee increases. He said it is open to everyone and can be found at ipetitions.com/petition/siufees.