Student fees expected to increase due to rising mandatory costs

Natalia Sperry

With an estimated budget of $61.3 million dollars in student fees and the University projecting a three percent tuition increase for academic year 18-19, the Student Fee Review Board and its chair, student body Vice President Cole Wise, are at work this semester to determine what changes students can expect to see to their student fees.

Man presenting information to people.
Student body Vice President Cole Wise presents information to the ASCSU Senate about student fees on campus and where they go during the Feb. 2 senate session. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

Wise said that the fee areas present SFRB with two kinds of potential changes: mandatory costs and proposed increases.

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“I can speak in a general sense that mandatory costs will increase since minimum wage is increasing, so that definitely will see some sort of increase,” Wise said. “As far as the new initiatives and projects go, I’m not sure because the vote hasn’t happened yet.”

SFRB cannot deny mandatory costs, which are either due to facility maintenance increases, minimum wage, fringe benefits and tuition increases. Proposed increases are what the Board is able to vote on and can include new project and initiative costs or new personnel for the various organizations.

As costs of higher education continue to rise, Colorado State University students have a say in their student fees through the Student Fee Review Board, a body comprised of student members intended to provide efficient, equitable and consistent review of student fees and fee services, according to the University’s Board of Governors.

By the end of the spring semester, the Board proposes a student fee-funded package that they then present to the senate body of the Associated Students of CSU. After that passes, the package then goes on to University President Tony Frank, who presents it to the Board of Governors for final approval, according to Wise. 

“As far as SFRB goes, their role is really the student’s voice in where their student money is being spent. In all, it’s around (a) $62 million budget that we’re looking at,” Wise said. “So, it’s up to these folks to decide where we invest our student fees, and what programs and initiatives we really want to put our money towards.”

According to University Provost Rick Miranda, CSU is proud of their unique level of shared governance with students in the fee budgeting process.  

“We have a philosophy here at Colorado State that I think we’re really proud of about the student fee areas, and that is that we have always gone to the students and student government for approval and for oversight of how their fees are spent,” Miranda said at the Feb. 5 SFRB meeting. “That’s not the case at all universities.”

Although formally student’s roles in SFRB are to give advice to the University President, who in turn advises the final decision making of the Board of Governors, Miranda said that in President Tony Frank’s administration, SFRB has always had a valuable place in the decision making process. 

“It’s never been the case that in our memory, and certainly not in our administration, that we have taken a fee to board of governors that (SFRB) has not approved of, or that we’ve vetoed a fee that (SFRB) was supportive of,” Miranda said during the SFRB meeting. “We have a very long history of a cooperative relationship with SFRB and with student government in shepherding these resources.” 

According to the CSU Institutional Fee Plan and Policy, student fees are defined as being any amount, other than tuition, that is assessed to all individual students as a condition of enrollment in the University.

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Though it often appears as one total cost of “tuition and fees” on the student’s end, as with the Shopping Sheet on RAMweb, the current student fee total for full-time, on-campus students per semester is $1,183.74.

The student fee is broken down into 19 fee areas as follows:

  • ASCSU, $24.45
  • Adult Learner and Veteran Services, $7.49
  • Athletics, $114.92
  • Alternative Transportation Fee Advisory Board , $26.23
  • Career Center, $31.22
  • Campus Recreation, $139.15
  • Conflict Resolution, $7.34
  • Health Network, $248.07
  • Lory Student Center, $182.52
  • Off Campus Life, $5.54
  • Ram Events, $9.71
  • Ram Ride, $6.07
  • Resources for Disabled Students, $0.48
  • SLiCE, $18.16
  • Student Legal Services, $7.30
  • University Center for the Arts, $14.59
  • University Facility Fee Advisory Board, $311.25
  • University Technology Fee Advisory Board, $25.00
  • The Women and Gender Advocacy Center, $4.25

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According to Wise, student fee areas are created based on what impacts students the most, such as ATFAB, which reviews the accessibility of Transfort and the bus systems around campus.

“Really, it’s where on campus impacts the most students, and that’s what creates a fee area,” Wise said. “We’re getting a say in a lot of things going on, on campus.” 

This year, the two largest fee areas are in UFFAB, whose fees provide both new facilities and improvement to current facilities that directly benefit the students, and the new CSU Health Network, which provides resources to all students, such as 5 free counseling sessions.

For full-time on-campus students, fees increased by about $15 for the 2017-2018 school year, a 1.34 percent increase from the 2016-2017 academic year. The previous year, the fee increased by 3.49 percent. Although SFRB has not yet determined the final budget for the 2018-2019 academic year, Wise anticipates an increase due to rising mandatory costs. 

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“The only trend that we’re seeing (in fee increases) is that mandatory costs increase. The cost of living is increasing, and the cost of salary is increasing, as well as hourly student pay,” Wise said. “With the minimum wage increase that was passed, we’re going to continue to see those mandatory costs continue to increase for the foreseeable future.”

This year, Miranda asked SFRB to consider the projected rise in tuition when deliberating on any changes to student fees, as there was previously a gap between tuition increases and fee increases.

As the Board continues to determine the specific necessary and proposed changes to student fees this semester, Wise plans on increasing transparency through the student fees website and encourages students to get involved in the process by contacting SFRB members. 

“Learn about where your money’s going, because if you have the opportunity to learn about where you’re spending money, you should take it,” Wise said. “This is a process that any student on campus can be a part of.”

Collegian reporter Natalia Sperry can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Natalia_Sperry.