The Arizona Desert Lamp

Chimes of Feedom

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 6 March 2009

Just got back from a chat with Stephen Bieda III, President of the Graduate and Professional Students Council (GPSC) and, far more importantly, an early Desert Lamp commenter. We talked about many things relating to the state of the university, but mostly we talked about fees.

No burying the lede here: there are eleven pages worth of fees that will proposed to the Arizona Board of Regents next week. The entire list can be viewed here [PDF]. Most of these come in the form of differential tuition and course fees; and while several of these than be questioned, we really have no issues with differential tuition, course fees, or any sort of ‘user fee’ on principle. In fact, in many ways differential tuition is better, as it helps to reveal the true cost of education rather than obscuring it. If the resources required to earn a major in information technologies cost more than the resources to earn a major in women’s studies, then that should be reflected in the overall cost of education.

What we don’t like are increases in mandatory, undifferentiated, student body fees, and there are plenty of those:

Academic Advising Fee: $30 per academic year.

Application Fee (undergraduate): increase from $25 to $50

Green CaTs (sic) Fee: $50 per academic year.

Student Health and Wellness Fee: $225 per academic year.

Student Library Fee: increase from $30 to $125 per academic year

Student Tech Fee: increase from $215 to $225 per academic year

Utilities and Operating Costs: $575 per academic year

If all of these fees are approved, all students will have to pay $985 extra per academic year for incidental services, in addition to the fees that they already pay. These proposals all deserve posts of their own, but it is interesting to see how minimal (relatively) the tech fee increase is, an increase costing less than the new ‘Green CaTs’ fee.

One of the stronger cases to be made for fees, that Bieda pointed out, is the fact the money stays within the university system. This stands in stark contrast to tuition, which is funneled through the state’s general fund, where 25 to 40 percent of it “vanishes,” before it is returned back to the university. Furthermore, these fees are transparent relative to tuition – when you pay your “Student Services Fee,” you get “student services.”

These are both good points, and they raise a curious question: why not pay everything through fees? Why not replace the current in-state tuition of $2,772.06 (Six cents? Really?) per semester with an equivalent “instruction fee”? Bieda alluded to a general floor for tuition rates, but even dropping it to this level and replacing it with an equal fee would allow more money to stay within the university system and outside of the state coffers. Why would the university ever raise tuition, if it could just raise fees instead (which, incidentally, is exactly what President Shelton plans on doing this next ABOR meeting)? I suspect that I’m missing something here, and I’m hoping that Jim Florian will jump in with the answer.

According to Bieda, the GPSC still has to finalize a final statement regarding the fees, that will be presented to the Board of Regents. It sounds like the statement will insist that fees “maintain services as they are now,” and should include sunset provisions, which would put the fees up for review after a certain number of years. As one who pays for a class-of-’85 approved rec center fee, I couldn’t agree more.

Other matters discussed:

– One of President Bieda’s goals is to make GPSC the “most open student government on campus.” While the competition isn’t exactly breathing down his neck, the organization has done a good job of making not only it’s most recent minutes available online, but minutes from years ago – which ASUA only accidentally provided. He spoke in favor of the Council’s representative system, in which a college gets one representative for every 400 students in its graduate program (plus three at-large seats). “We want to make that each and every person on campus is equally represented . . . [rather than just having] one group that people are listening to,” he said. Bieda also cited the need for more intra-college governance, such as the Associated Graduate Council of the College of Science. Right now, three of these exist on a graduate level, and none exist on an undergradute level. (It seems, though, that these councils might be strengthened if they consisted of both graduate and undergraduate students within the college. Right now, there are no student governing bodies that combine graduate and undergraduate students, even though they have many objectives in common. Intra-college councils might be the best way to gap this undergrad-graduate divide.)

– Part of the issue with shifting towards more online education is the fact that the D2L framework is simply unable to sustain a large number of students (although you don’t need me or President Bieda to tell you that, I’m sure). When D2L has a large hit of multiple classes at the same time, it has a tendency to crash – these times, of course, being the due dates of homework assignments and quizzes. (Still, though, I feel like I could learn more through an email correspondence course than a D2L-based course. Expensive academic softwares might not be the way to go.)

5 Responses

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  1. […] the number refers to or where it can be accessed. This fee was not included in the supposedly comprehensive list of fees proposed – who pushed this? It also provides no indication as to whether the $20 is per […]

  2. […] – Except, obviously, the GPSC. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Chimes of FeedomUP-Mindanao Besieged By Tuition […]

  3. […] review every two years. Otherwise, the class of 2035 will rue the day that we somehow allowed the Green CaTs fee to be passed. Tagged with: ASU, Fees, GPSC, NAU, Tuition, Tuition Surcharge « […]

  4. […] content to let the money go to Phoenix’s general fund before coming back to Tucson – where, according to GPSC President Bieda III, anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the money gets lost in a […]

  5. […] Green CaTs fee dies hard. Yet the Green Sustainable Things provide some interesting examples from sustainability […]

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