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Student fee increase sparks dialogue

December 2, 2010

Chancellor Dean Van Galen is asking for student involvement regarding the proposal of increasing differential tuition in order to fulfill the UW-River Falls Falcon Promise.

“There must be collaboration on any proposal that is brought to the Board of Regents to ensure that the initiatives support the goals of the campus, have demonstrated student support and include adequate accountability for the use of funds,” Van Galen said in an e-mail.

The Falcon Promise consists of five core institutional values: academic excellence, community, continuous improvement, inclusiveness and integrity. According to the Chancellor’s proposal, there are four main areas that will help UWRF achieve this promise: an increase in tutoring services, increase in undergraduate research opportunities, increase in student scholarships and classroom modernization. By increasing these four areas, UWRF will hopefully have higher retention and graduation rates.

Van Galen said this proposal is trying to help students in a variety of ways.

“As is generally the case with student tuition and fees, different students would benefit in different ways from the Falcon Promise initiative,” Van Galen said. “Some students would benefit from more tutoring, others would be able to engage in study abroad or undergraduate research, some students would receive new scholarship support from alumni, while many students would benefit over time from the enhanced classrooms and other learning spaces.”

Living up to the Falcon Promise will come with a price tag.

The promise calls for three annual increases to the $72 fee full-time students are currently paying. According to the proposal, the fee supports expanded library services which includes a 24-hour computer lab; additional undergraduate research and scholarly activity experiences and a centralized testing and tutoring center.

For the 2011-12 academic year, the annual fee will be $100 per student. The total amount collected will be $630,000. Of that amount, 30 percent, $52,800, will go to tutoring, and an additional 30 percent will go to undergraduate research. The remaining 40 percent, $70,560, will go to scholarships.

For the 2012-13 academic year, the annual fee will be $130 per student with the total amount collected being $819,000. Of that amount, 50 percent, $94,500, will go to scholarships and the other 50 percent will go for classroom modernization.

For the 2013-14 academic year, the annual fee will be $160 per student, totaling a little over $1 million. Of the total amount collected, 100 percent will go for classroom modernization.

The proposed differential tuition fee increases remain far lower than those currently charged at many other UW-System institutions, according to the proposal. In 2013-14 the differential tuition fee at UW-Madison will be $3,000 per student, at UW-Eau Claire it will be $1,363 per student and at UW-LaCrosse it will be $1,162 per student. UWRF is keeping its differential tuition lower because most students here are first generation college students, Van Galen said.

“I think that yearly increases of $72 really isn’t that much when compared to what other schools in the UW-System are going to have to pay for their differential tuition,” said UWRF Freshman Emmily Rasmussen.

This proposal calls for the campus to be willing to support these initiatives. According to the proposal, UWRF will partner with students by making a one-to-one match of all differential tuition fee dollars used for classroom modernization for a total of $283,500.

In regards to scholarships, UWRF alumni — through fundraising campaigns and designation of existing endowments — will contribute $4,000 for each Falcon Scholar, while students will provide $2,000 through differential tuition. It is believed that the students’ commitment to the challenge will motivate alumni and friends to make charitable gifts, thereby significantly increasing the scholarship awards available to students, according to the proposal.

There is some concern from students about whether or not it is the role of the students to pay for classroom renovation via the differential tuition fund. Student Senate Allocable Fees Appropriation Board Chair Jordan Harshman acknowledges a link between quality education and updated technology and renovations, but he said he feels that the goals of differential tuition should consist of “game-changer” ideas, or ideas that make UWRF students ready for what is to come after college.

“In particular, the proposed funding would allow more students to participate in undergraduate research. Undergraduate research has been shown time and time again to lead to allow true synthesis and evaluation of ideas and is most applicable to life after college,” Harshman said in an e-mail.
There are also concerns regarding the scholarship aspect of this proposal.

“Why should I, as a student, be forced to pay into a segregated fee that will help pay for the schooling of another student,” Harshman said.

The Chancellor is going to the Board of Regents Dec. 17 for analysis of the proposal. Once the Board has finalized the proposal, they will bring it to Madison on Feb. 10 to get it approved.

Van Galen said he wants every step of this process to be a collaborative effort between the students, the Board of Regents and the administrators. The Chancellor wants student engagement in this process to see if students are in support of the increase in differential tuition or not.

Concerns or comments about the proposal may be e-mailed to the Chancellor at dean.vangalen@uwrf.edu or to Student Senate President Leigh Monson at leigh.monson@uwrf.edu. Monson also said students are more than welcome to come to a Senate meeting and voice their opinions. Senate meetings are held 7 p.m. every Tuesday in the Willow River Room located in the University Center.