To address the concerns coming from students across Georgia, the Board of Regents asked Susan Herbst, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, to survey the problems students have had with this semester’s new mandatory student fee.
Last Friday, Herbst held a meeting that was attended by members of the staff and student body, many of whom were from the SGA. Herbst also met with the University of Georgia’s (UGA) student government earlier in the week.
“The Regents regret that the students were unhappy with how the fee was rolled out,” Herbst said at the beginning of the meeting.
Given this opportunity to voice their concerns to the Regents, students at the meeting used most of their time to voice their displeasure with the lack of transparency with the decision to establish the new mandatory student fee and with the problems with Georgia’s Fixed for Four tuition policy.
Out of the meetings with Tech and UGA, Herbst established several areas where all the students agreed there must be changes. The criticisms of the mandatory fee rollout revolved around not specifying the purpose of the new fees and the lack of communication with the Regents.
The student representatives argued that student fees have traditionally been tied to a specific purpose, for example technology and athletic fees. The mandatory fee funds would be general purpose, and the student government claimed that this would make oversight difficult.
They also claimed that the lack of communication with the Regents led to a situation where many students felt confused or troubled by the last minute nature of the additional fee.
Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president, suggested that the Regents could provide regular updates about their upcoming decisions.
“We need to get moved into the decision making process. Many times we think if [the item] is on the [Board of Regents’ agenda], the decision has already been made,” Wellkamp said. He said that information didn’t need to be finely detailed, but a normalized line of communication would ease any confusion and provide and opportunity for feedback.
Aaron Fowler, graduate student body president, brought attention to the fact that graduate student tuition waivers did not cover the mandatory fee. Graduate research and teaching assistants receive tuition waivers and stipends as compensation, and many graduate students paid the fee with their stipends. “[Any future fee increases] will significantly impede a graduate student’s ability to cover basic living expenses, and it will inhibit our ability to attract the best graduate student’s to [Tech],” Fowler said.
There was also a lot of discussion on redesigning Fixed for Four, the program that holds an in-state student’s tuition at the same rate for four years.
The students all agreed that the current system took a cookie-cutter approach that didn’t account for how students really planned to pay for college. They also argued that a four year program unfairly treated many of Tech’s students, who normally take more than that time to graduate.
Herbst explained that in her meeting with students from UGA, they proposed a model that would publish future fixed tuition increases years in advance, so that students could accurately plan for the next few years. Like at UGA, there was general support for considering a plan like this.