The Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee struggled to come to decision on whether to accept or reject two departmental fees that were approved by tuition committees last week due to the precedent they may set. Ultimately, TFSC members decided to hold the discussion until next week’s meeting.
Last week, committees for the Department of Kinesiology and the Institute of Personal Financial Planning both voted to approve course fee increases. Since these are the first departmental fees TFSC has considered, the committee’s decision to accept the fees and send them on to the university president would set a precedent on how and if TFSC will consider department-wide fees in the future.
Kinesiology, personal financial planning representatives vote in favor of fee increases
Jack Ayres, student body president and senior in chemical engineering, stressed that the debate did not concern the fees’ impacts on students, which received overwhelming support from their committees.
“Students support the merits of the fee, and that’s what we’ve heard, loud and clear,” Ayres said. “What we’re not doing is saying we disagree with the merits of the fee. We’re simply disagreeing with the precedent of the fee.”
The precedent in question could “open the floodgates,” leaving the TFSC inundated with innumerable fees to consider in the future. Pat Bosco, vice president of student life, wondered if every department would come to have their own tuition rates.
The situation is also complicated because the committee is anticipating a restructuring of the university’s budget model and because the fee approval process has recently changed, said Olivia Baalman, student body vice president and senior in computer science.
“That’s something we want to improve on year-to-year now that we’re trying to involve more student input, which is I think a big positive, but that also comes with some barriers when you change a process that’s been in place for a while to figure out what’s the best practice,” Baalman said. “And, we’re in a very fluid situation where we’re anticipating a whole budget restructure at the university, and that’s kind of hard to say, ‘Oh, okay, we’re going to increase student fees,’ but we don’t in reality know what the whole big picture is going to look like.”
Arguments against accepting the two department-wide fee increases included decentralization of the fee request and approval process. Brett Montague, third year veterinary student, said departmental fees are beyond the TFSC’s scope of power.
“I think, looking at the founding documents of this committee, the department fees are just such a stretch in what we’re supposed to be doing here,” Montague said.
However, in not accepting kinesiology’s and personal financial planning’s votes, the TFSC would reject two votes in favor of fee increases which students see a dire need for. To avoid this, the committee briefly considered two potential compromises.
Ayres said TFSC could vote against the fees. The provost and the deans in question could then discuss and decide if they would like to propose a college-wide fee, which TFSC would consider, even though it would be out of schedule.
Another solution suggested that the committee could vote the fees down on the basis that the TFSC did not properly follow required processes.
Ultimately, committee members decided to hold the conversation and continue debate next week.