Disclaimer: Rocky Mountain Student media receives a portion of its funding from student fees.
What expenses are essential to our college education? Are there areas in our budget that could be trimmed or funds re-appropriated to serve students’ needs more efficiently at less cost? These are the sort of questions that should be considered by any university’s administration when planning for the future, and yet, one look at Colorado State’s budget for the 2015-2016 school year leaves a lot to be desired from a frugality standpoint. Much has already been made about the 5.5 percent increase in undergraduate tuition for in-state students next year, and the fact that the new football coach Mike Bobo stands to be the highest-paid employee at the university. My colleague Dan Rice has already discussed problems with CSU’s excessive spending on administrative positions, but most of the conversation so far has overlooked an important aspect of the budget: student fees.
Student fees are easy to underestimate in the conversation about the cost of higher education because they pale in comparison to the price of tuition, but as a result, any sizable increase in these extra charges can end up making students pay far more for their education than they anticipated. CSU’s student fees are set to increase by over 11 percent next semester to a ridiculous total of $1,128.74 for full-time students. Student fees are supposed to fund the things non-essential to the college education itself that support and enhance student life at the university, yet the Student Fee Review Board continues to raise costs to students to pay for things outside of this principle, and well beyond the two percent increase mandated by the state. Student fees at CSU have grown excessive and need to be reduced and re-appropriated to better serve students.
While there are many institutions within CSU that are integral to supporting students outside of academics, most of the increase in student fees are not going to such programs. Of the roughly $114-per-student increase planned for next year, nearly $87 of it is allocated for the renovation of the Anatomy and Zoology building. While an upgrade to these facilities is certainly warranted, this really seems like something that should be funded already through our basic tuition. Infrastructure for scientific study and research is integral to education at CSU, and should be funded through the money we already pay for academics. There is no way this can be construed as a student support non-essential to education. Administration is raising tuition next semester by a level near the maximum six percent the state of Colorado allows; they should be able to afford these building upgrades without imposing additional fees.
This practice of paying for academic needs with student fees on top of tuition is seen elsewhere in the budget increase. The University Center for the Arts requested an increase in their portion of student fees to help pay for production materials and supplies. While I admit that I support this as a student involved in the Arts department, this again represents an area of need that should be funded through tuition or charges specific to Arts majors. Production supplies are not a student support item, they are essential to Arts students developing the best quality productions through their education.
While CSU has many areas of funding in and outside the classroom that are integral to student life at the university, administrative officials are becoming too indulgent on raising student fees to pay for academic needs that should be covered by tuition. Student fees are far too high, and with tuition increasing at about the maximum rate allowed, CSU has no excuse for charging students additional fees to pay for academic infrastructure and material needs. University leadership needs to reduce charges and optimize their budget to allow themselves and students to get the most for their money.
Collegian Senior Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @seanskenn.