Archive for Saturday, December 22, 2001

Student Senate panel weighing increase of up to $20 per semester

December 22, 2001


Kansas University students bracing for increased tuition next fall should expect to pay higher student fees, too.

Members of the KU Student Senate say fees could increase as much as $20 per semester for the 2002-2003 school year, which would be the second-largest increase in 10 years.

"It shouldn't be too big," said Finance Committee chairman Adam Obley, "but we've been hesitant coming on the heels of the tuition increase to raise fees too much."

Fees jumped from $229 last year to $275.50 this year, mostly because of a $34 increase to pay for a new student-approved recreation center, which is scheduled for groundbreaking next year.

Fees have steadily climbed from $169 in 1992.

Student Senate reviews each student fee every four years. The Board of Regents must approve changes to the fees.

Most of the six fees being reviewed this year appear to be increasing, Obley said.

"It's just a bad year," he said. "A lot of fees are just at that point."

The biggest proposal for an increase next year is at the Kansas Union, which is asking for $5 extra per student each semester for operating expenses and $2 more for programming. The Kansas and Burge unions currently receive $28 per student each month for operations and another $12 to fund the ongoing renovations.

The increase would net about $250,000 per year for operational expenses.

The unions' director, David Mucci, said the 17,500-square-foot addition to the Kansas Union which will open in August will require about $111,000 more per year for utility, custodial and other expenses. The addition includes a lounge, more bookstore room and student office space.

"With the new addition, there are some clear and immediate needs that immediately hit the bottom line," Mucci said.

The remainder of the operational money would help cover slipping sales at the unions. Profits are about 6 percent per year, down from 9 percent to 11 percent a decade ago.

Foot traffic and sales are both down about 10 percent this year. Mucci said the renovations, which closed the west entrance to the Kansas Union, are one reason. Internet sites and the arrival of Borders Books Music & Cafe in 1997 also have taken their toll on bookstore sales.

The $2 union programming fee would help pay for speakers and concerts funded through Student Union Activities. SUA now receives $100,000 per year from the union operating budget, and the $2 would almost double that amount.

"This is a rotten time to do this," Mucci said. "It's probably the worst time to be asking this question, given what students are looking at on the tuition side."

Student senators already approved a $3 increase in the activity fee, which funds student organizations. It will go from $17 to $20 per semester.

Legal Services for Students has requested an increase from $6 to $8 for operating expenses. The environmental improvement fee, which helps pay for recycling programs, may increase from $1 to $2. And the student media fee, which helps pay for the University Daily Kansan and other campus media, may increase, though no formal request has been made.

Student senators already declined to raise the educational opportunity fee, which provides need-based scholarships and grants, because of concerns about the impending tuition hike, Obley said.

Kit Brauer, a sophomore and member of the senate's Fee Review Board, said he thought the fees would be a hot topic for senators next semester.

"This is obviously a poor time to ask students for more money," Brauer said. "I think there will be a group who can't get past that initial reaction."

But he said students would be more willing to support the increase if they're reminded the fees support services that benefit them.

"With student fees, it goes directly back to students," Brauer said. "The way we distribute money is so much better than the way the administration distributes their fees."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.