A proposed fee increase of $10 per-credit-hour was greeted with guarded interest at the Associated Students of CSU's Wednesday senate session. ASCSU President Katie Clausen said the increased cost to students was an important consideration, but the campus needs construction funding.
"What I would anticipate is a lot of really frustrated and upset students," said Clausen. "(But) no matter what, we're going to have inflation – the students are going to be charged more next year. If I'm going to pay more, I want to see more value."
The proposed fee, championed by CSU President Larry Penley, would yield $7 million per year for university construction projects. Sixty-four cents per dollar would gradually finance $54 million worth of new construction. The remaining 36 cents would provide $2.5 million for annual smaller projects.
"Capital construction funding," as state money for university construction is known, vanished during the state budget crisis in 2001, Penley told the senate. CSU classrooms are feeling the budget crunch, and a performance contract with the Colorado Commission of Higher Education demands CSU find a way to fund repairs and new facilities.
The best source of money, Penley said, is a fee increase. He asked the senate to approve the fee, saying it would bring improved quality of education.
Jason Huitt, director of the University Technology Fee Review Board, said the proposal was not comparatively large.
"It's moderate, I think," he said. "I think any less than that would start to remove some of the benefit."
If the senate does not support the fee increase, the amount will likely be added to a 2005-2006-tuition increase, Clausen said.
"If the students didn't pass it this way, we would immediately have to open up the discussion, 'OK, can we put it in tuition,'" she said.
Clausen was torn over the fee because her platform included avoiding fee increases. Still, she said construction funds must come from somewhere and fee increases are preferable to tuition increases because students decide how fees are spent.
Extra tuition money would be dumped into a general fund and spent according to a university priority list.
"There would be no mandated student input on the way that (money) was spent," Clausen said.
But students don't need to scramble for spare cash yet – the fee must jump through a series of hoops. First the senate will discuss the idea and send it to the Student Fee Review Board. The review board will develop a plan for how money will be spent and the proposal will return to the senate. If approved by ASCSU, it must then find approval from the desks of Clausen, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Linda Kuk, Penley, the CSU System Board of Governors, and the CCHE.
Penley and Clausen were adamant that students give input on the fee. The University of Colorado, Boulder's decision to increase fees last year without consulting students would be unacceptable at CSU, Penley said.
"I still don't like the way things happened at CU," she said. "That's just absurd. You have to let students know what's going on."
Huitt urged concerned students to speak to ASCSU representatives.
"If most students on campus don't want this, then we'll say no. But if they do, then we need to know that too," Huitt said.
Planned construction projects include renovations to the Clark Building, the completion of the Visual Arts Building, and improvements in other buildings, Penley said. Clausen is seeking construction projects for each college.
"A fee should not be in a fee package if it does not have the ability to affect all students," she said.
The suggested fee will not include a rumored parking garage that many students have called for, citing campus parking crunches. The board of governors gently refused the idea at a recent board meeting, Clausen said. Instead, alternative parking facilities are tentatively planned, totaling nearly 900 outlying parking spots and a shuttle service into campus.
"To a student who really does their homework and looks at this, this is a better deal. I hope that in reality it will create more fixes than what a parking garage would have done," Clausen said.