The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Town Hall Forum: Advising Fee Addenda

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 27 March 2009

Please AdviseThe Wildcat has the goods on much of last night’s forum, yet it missed perhaps the most crucial element – student leaders actually standing up for students, asking tough questions about the proposed $30 advising fee.

David Martinez – David Martinez! – led things off by wondering why students who are getting the same services should invest in such a fee – “or any other kind of fee.”

Copping up to being the mastermind, Dr. Juan Garcia, VP for Instruction, argued that good advising leads to better retention, and thus advisers should get pay raises so that they don’t leave. Of course, Dr. Garcia failed to mention a more powerful force that leads to retention – smarter students. It’s no accident that the schools with the highest rates of retention are also the most elite. If the UA was truly concerned about retention, then it certainly wouldn’t be increasing its student body size with lower quality students.

More insipidly, Dr. Garcia said that, “$30 in the scheme of things is not a lot.” This will be said a lot in the coming weeks, by many different people, all with their own little fee that “isn’t much in the scheme of things.”

President-Elect Nagata got even more into it. “If I’m a student who is skeptical of the advising system, why should I invest more? What return will I get?” Kudos to Nagata for getting at the inherent problem behind the advising fee – the fact that a good many of us don’t need to use an advisor. The only time that your author has ever gone to an advisor are the times where advisor approval is required for a certain administrative action to take place – add a major, minor completion check, and so forth. Much of the demand for advising services is artificially created with these sorts of loopholes. Thus, the main role of these professional advisors is not actual advising, per se, but approving administrative moves – they are essentially mid-level bureaucrats in the registration process.

Roxie Catts answered by saying that – well, she didn’t really answer, as she herself copped to. Essentially, it seems like the UA has a young professional advising corps, and that they want to keep these advisors here as long as possible. Also, there’s a mystic survey floating out there on advising services, the results of which will be reported in glowing language without any sort of public release of the data set.

Here lies an opportunity for a user fee – charging a nominal fee to the bursar’s accounts of students who use advising services outside of degree checks and other required meetings. The more services you use, the more you pay. Gen Ed reform – always promised, never delivered – would also help, as would bringing back faculty advising. In fact, as far as actual advising is concerned – providing advice on what classes are worth taking, etc. – many faculty members are far more qualified. Naturally, professional advisors have rejected faculty help – after all, they have to watch out for themselves.

Finally, Sen. Emily Fritze wondered openly how these fees would be fairly decided if students didn’t know about the proposal, and whether there was any plan to inform students of the proposal. One problem, of course, is that the administrators themselves don’t really know what’s going on. One day, Dean Cervelli of Architecture is describing an omnibus ‘university-wide fee‘, and another day we learn that summer students have been paying an activities fee for twenty years or so. As Dr. Garcia said himself, “Watch carefully what fees you’re asked to pay.” For such a transparent way to accrue revenue, fees have a funny way of sneaking up on you.

Anyways, there will supposedly be a year-by-year accounting of how the money is spent, and one of the requirements at ABOR is that students must understand what the fees are being used for (meaning they’ll have their own little entry at this site). There was, however, one telling dialogue:

GARCIA: “The question is: can we get students to show up en masse? . . . There was a longer line at Gallagher [than people at the forum].”

CATTS: “Where they were paying fees!”

This, of course, highlights the classic fallacy behind the fee mindset. If all fees are like movie tickets, then presumably we shouldn’t be forcing people into the theatre. Students buy tickets for the shows they want to see, and some students just have no interest in watching, “Return of the SAPR.” It is astounding how little administrators understand the non-voluntary nature of these sorts of service fees, and assume that everyone is using these services to a more-or-less equal degree.

Perhaps it was the role reversal that led to this kind of question from our present and future student leaders, but it was heartening. Tellingly, President Bruce did not offer any questions, and it is hard to imagine that he will offer such a skeptical take when he presents a PodCats on the Student Services Fee next week.

NB: Also, it would appear that the Colleges of Letters, Arts, and Sciences will feature “über-colleges,” the much-sought-after interdisciplinary programs that simultaneously combat the UA’s umlaut deficiency. The one mentioned by Dr. Garcia is the “School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior,” which was proposed in this white paper.

Image courtesy of Flickr user boogah

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  1. […] the biggest fans of Dr. Garcia here – after all, not only was he behind the abominable “advisers fee,” but also has been one of the University College’s biggest defenders. Yet for all of […]

  2. […] ASUA Legal Services (a very helpful service, although one that I would have gladly paid for with a user fee) has assured me that now that the case has gone to the intra-university judicial system, I am […]

  3. […] ASUA Legal Services (a very helpful service, although one that I would have gladly paid for with a user fee) has assured me that now that the case has gone to the intra-university judicial system, I am […]

  4. […] ASUA Legal Services (a very helpful service, although one that I would have gladly paid for with a user fee) has assured me that now that the case has gone to the intra-university judicial system, I am […]


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