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Seg fees on track to top $1,000 mark

April 17, 2008

The 2008-2009 school year will mark the first time in UW-River Falls’ history that segregated fees will top $1,000. It may, however, be a milestone many students don’t even notice.

  “What exactly do you mean by ‘segregated fees’?” senior John McConville said.

  McConville is not alone in his confusion.

  “I wish I knew what they were,” Beth Ashton said. “I’d love to know why this huge number keeps showing up on my tuition bill.”

  According to the Student Services Web site, “segregated fees are charges, in addition to instructional fees, assessed to all students for services, programs and facilities that support the mission of the University of Wisconsin.”

  The money is used to cover non-academic costs of activities or services that directly benefit the student body.

  During the 2007-2008 school year, students were charged $993.96 ($496.98 per semester) in segregated fees.

  Though many students may have concerns about the amount they pay segregated fees, these annual payments play an essential role in university life, according to Kristen Hendrickson, the university budget director.

  “Segregated fees help us fund things we wouldn’t normally be able to,” she said.

  For example, the University Center was funded entirely by students, and its $35 million price tag continues to account for nearly half of the segregated fees. Students pay roughly $200 per semester for operating costs and payments on the bond used to fund its construction, said Larry Testa, the student affairs budget director. The University Center. fee is set increase by $7 in the fall semester and other $7 in the spring.

  Two other construction projects, the new Health and Human Performance Building and the Ramer Field renovation, will receive nearly $6.7 million in student fees over the coming years.

  According to budget proposals, segregated fees are expected to rise by nearly $70 in the 2008-2009 school year to $1063.83. A piece by piece breakdown of current fees can be found at the student affairs Web site under the “policies” section. Next year’s fees will be posted once budgets become official.

  A segregated fee increase is a normal occurrence, Student Senate President Derek Brandt said. He said the UW System recommends a fee increase of 3.7 percent each school year to account for inflation.

  Next years increase, however, is nearly twice that much.

  One of the reasons for this substantial rise, according to Hendrickson, is to make up for recent cuts in public funding for higher education, something that affects the entire UW System.

  “The state sees its role in a more and more limited way,” Hendrickson said. “The things they’re willing to pay for have changed over time.”

  “Let me put it this way,” shared governance committee member Ben Plunkett said. “The state has shifted the burden of paying for education to students’ pocketbooks.”

  This lack of state funding is part of a much larger national issue, Plunkett said.

  “Over half of all federal discretionary funding goes to the military,” he said. “That’s money that’s not being spent on public health, human services, economic development, and especially education.”

  Unfortunately, for students, it’s a trend that’s likely to continue into the foreseeable future, said Hendrickson.

  “I don’t see it any other way,” she said. “There’s definitely no kind of bright light coming.”

  Last September, students began paying an extra $36 per semester in addition to segregated fees. This new charge, known as differential tuition, was created as an additional source of income for the administration to pull from when segregated fees are not an option, said President Brandt. The Senate approved the new fee in March, 2007.

  “The Student Senate knows we have a need for these things, and the only tool they have directly available to them is taxing students,” Plunkett, who is also a member of the Pierce County Board, said. “They’ve made the only decision they could based on the budgetary limitations imposed by the state.”

  All fee increases are considered and voted on by three student bodies before they are passed to the chancellor for final approval.    This level of student involvement is unusual in UW System schools, Brandt said.

  “A lot of hands get into the mix,” he said. “That’s not something you see in a lot of universities.”

  Despite the substantial say students have in the process, Brandt said he wishes students—especially those with concerns about where their money goes—would be more willing to voice their opinions.

  “If students don’t bring it up, we can’t address it,” he said. “That’s the apathy that we try to fight all the time.”

A piece by piece breakdown of current fees can be found at the student affairs Web site under the “policies” section located at http://sa.uwrf.edu/sa/quick-resources/policies/segregated-fees.