The CSU System Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward on two new construction projects with a $73 million price tag likely to be funded almost entirely by doubling the student facility fee, the largest at CSU.
The proposal to use student fees comes at a time when CSU is more than $83 million in debt after the university took out large Wall Street bonds for other capital development projects.
Students now appear to be viewed as the primary funding option, said Taylor Smoot, president of the Associated Students of CSU.
“Student fees are the only option (of payment) administration has presented on the table,” Smoot said. “I’d feel so much better if they at least said they were looking elsewhere for funding.”
If approved in the final budget for fiscal year 2010, the proposed three-story 25,000 sq.-foot addition to the Music Building would cost $13 million and includes a Learning and Teaching Center, according to the project proposal.
The second project, a state-of-the-art biology teaching and research building, would cost $60 million.
And neither figure includes the $178,190 and the $796,700 operating and maintenance fee tagged to each, respectively, to be provided for from the Education and General Fund — primarily tuition and state dollars.
“No one wants to raise tuition or student fees,” CSU President Larry Penley said in the meeting, though each project’s proposal details that plans are in the works to do so.
The student facility fee stands presently at $10 per credit hour per student, bringing in about $6.7 million a year to the university, said Brian Chase, director of Facilities Management.
The fee’s current rate was “copied (from) CU-Boulder’s model,” he said, and is typically allocated to general campus maintenance.
Numerous discussions regarding the projects are still to come, Penley said.
“Administration has always worked carefully with students when it comes to fee issues,” he said.
However, neither approval nor consent from the Student Fee Review Board or ASCSU has been sought thus far, both Chase and Smoot confirmed.
Student government is “obviously aware of the projects,” Chase said, “but I’m sure there was no discussion of the funding.”
Chase cited a lack of time and a non-approved project plan as reasons for not discussing the price of the projects.
“This is the first step in getting legislative and (BOG) approval for these projects,” he said.
The plans must now be submitted to the Colorado Commission for Higher Education and then, pending approval, to the Joint Budget Committee.
“Once that (approval) is in place, we’ll be looking in the coming year about how to finance those projects,” Chase said.
The funding for the projects is not yet “nailed down,” Chase said, but he justified looking into raising the student fee saying that biology is a course that almost every student will have to take and that the Learning and Teaching Center in the Music Building will prove “beneficial” to all CSU students.
But, even with the potential benefits the projects will provide for students, Smoot said the students need to be forewarned about the cost before the BOG holds further discussions about the building initiatives.
“I’d love to know when (the administration) plans on coming to talk to the students,” Smoot said. “They’re basically planning to raise tuition for these projects.”
Chase insisted that plans are not finalized.
“Just because we go forward with a program plan doesn’t mean we’re going through with the money,” he said.
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