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Senate debates differential tuition

February 22, 2007

This week an issue was presented to Student Senate by an outside speaker, Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance Kristen Hendrickson. She, along with Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Gregg Heinselman, presented a proposal for Senate’s approval for UW-River Falls to convert to a differential tuition rate starting in fall 2007.

According to the handout outlining the proposal, it “ ... focuses on the transitions that students make to, through and from the University to life-long learning.”

Hendrickson elaborated on the information on the handout.

“The goal is to improve our retention rate,” Hendrickson said. “It’s also about enhancing the entire learning experience for the students.”

A differential tuition is an amount added to the base tuition level to fund programs that go above and beyond the existing programs and activities.

There are two types of differential tuition rates: institution-wide rates and program-specific rates. The rate UWRF would be using is the program-specific rate.

The amount added to tuition would be set by the Board of Regents to fund the program enhancements. Students who pay the differential tuition rate would benefit from the improved services.

It would cost each student roughly $172 per year in order to fund all of the proposed items that accompany the differential tuition plan. This number is based on a current estimate of 5,500 students and rough estimations about the cost of adding and improving the physical spaces and programs to campus.

In the years to come, as the number of students on the UWRF campus increases, it wouldn’t necessarily decrease the amount each student would pay because costs always increase as well.

“The cost of these things will continue to rise, we know they probably will ...,” Hendrickson said. “The resources available to us will increase at least 10 percent a year as well, so the cost of these programs will continue to increase every year.”

Student Senate was presented with a list of proposed areas of funding for the members to debate and discuss at great length. The proposed items included improving the library’s hours and resources, supporting the overall remodel of Hagestad Hall and adding a testing center to campus similar to that of UW-Eau Claire and UW-Madison, among other possibilities.

The members of Student Senate exhausted the debate about each project proposed, breaking down the pros and cons in order to come to a decision based on the interests of “the entire student body,” Leadership Development and Programming Board Chair Natalie Hagberg said.

“You have to represent the students,” Student Senate President Joe Eggers said. “We don’t have the time to talk to every student ... we need to move fairly quickly; we can’t take a lot of time with this.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Student Senate voted to add five of the seven proposed areas of funding to the list of priorities for differential tuition.

One of the two projects Student Senate rejected by a majority vote was the addition of a first-year seminar for-credit course that each new student would be required to take. The second was a focused academic advising service geared toward helping new students navigate their way through the liberal education requirements.

Even though five of the proposed projects passed, not all members of Student Senate were excited about the idea as a whole.

“I’ll admit, I have my reservations, but I think that this is something that we should take the time to look into further,” Hagberg said. “We owe it to the students because this is something that will affect them and benefit them in the future.”

“This will affect students for a very, very long time. We have a responsibility to be educated on this,” Diversity Issues Director Ashley Olson said. “What are the positive impacts for the students and what are the drawbacks of funding these things?”

The final decision about the proposed projects for differential tuition will be voted on during the March 6 Student Senate meeting.

“The only way we’ll support this is if Student Senate has the final say,” Eggers said. “ ... We want to be able to control it.”

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