Many students were upset to discover the mandatory hundred-dollar fee added to Tech students’ tuition this semester. The fee was instituted to help cover budget cuts being made to the university system. At Tech, $1.9 million in revenue was raised by the fee, but very little explanation as to the application of this money was given.
“The short answer is [that funds were distributed] everywhere,” said Jim Kirk, director of Budget Planning and Administration. The state fee will be considered an addition to the money that goes in the part of the budget categorized as resident instruction.
“Resident instruction is the core operation of Tech. It includes all the colleges. It includes the administration, facilities, student affairs and everything that is not in some other bucket,” Kirk said.
Some of the other “buckets” would be parts of the university funded separately, such as Auxiliary Services, which is paid for by specific student fees, or parts of the university that operate separately, such as GTRI.
The fee was a part of the plan to minimize overall budget cuts. “Without the mandatory fee, we would have had an additional 0.75% cut with the already nine percent budget cut. I think that the fee was an attempt to avoid that,” Kirk said.
Exactly from where the extra 0.75% cut would have been taken never had been put into consideration, since the fee increase was announced at the same time as the cuts were moved from eight percent to nine percent.
This nine percent overall cut was absorbed in Tech’s budget by cutting about $7.8 million from academic units and $8 million from the administration’s budget.
Right now, figuring out where that money will be specifically taken from will wait as the official budget is legislated.
“There are specific earmarked cuts… but it’s our understanding that any line items that are earmarked [to be cut] have some flexibility. We don’t know for sure yet what the governor will cut specifically, so right now it is best to just look at the bigger picture of the budget,” Kirk said.
The fee enacted by the state is not earmarked for any particular function but rather treated like a supplement to tuition.
“The fee is what I would call a tuition supplement. It is in no way different [than] tuition… Fees are typically for something specific, so health, transportation, etc. Rather than this general fee that who knows what it is going for, I’d rather see us institute new fees to help us protect core services that we students feel are important and free up general money for the school in other ways,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president.
Most fees are determined with many levels for student, faculty and administration input. A committee comprised of eight students and four faculty and staff review the budgets for departments and determine what fees are appropriate to charge to students and specifically how those fees will be used.
A recommendation is then given to the president of the university, who generally agrees with the recommendations of the fee committee when approving the final budget.
The decision to create this fee bypassed all student involvement and was simply handed down to the universities with little to no input from university administration.
“No one knew the fee was coming as fast as it did… the fee was never supposed to be a part of the plan until the cuts reached 10 percent. I still never got a clear answer as to what exactly changed, so that the fee was implemented at cuts of eight percent with little warning,” Wellkamp said.
For now, the hundred-dollar tuition supplement fee is a temporary measure to keep the effects of the state’s budget crisis on Tech operations to a minimum. In the future, other actions will have to be taken to make up the shortfall in revenue.
“What is tuition going to be for research universities?… What are [the Board of Regents] going to do about the mandatory fee, supposedly a temporary fee, but is it really going to be? Are there going to be changes in the HOPE scholarship program? All these questions are out of our hands, to be determined by [the Regents], but we will obviously provide input on these things,” Kirk said.