Members of SGA approved wording that will be included in a ballot measure at the student elections. If passed, the measure will permit student fees to be raised as needed given inflation.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Carlos Garcia gave a presentation about student fees at the senate meeting on Jan. 20. According to Garcia, eight categories of student fees have been capped at a certain amount. With inflation, this funding will be unable to support the current services UCCS offers going forward.
“As long as [enrollment] was still growing, it wasn’t an issue necessarily,” Garcia said a few weeks after his presentation to SGA. “Now, our enrollment is pretty flat, and if not, going down. … But expenses to manage those operations continue to go up.”
Garcia acknowledged student reluctance against raising fees but said, “The impact of the fee not going up means that we would have to begin reducing services.” This could include services at places like the Wellness Center or the University Center. Without the posibility to increase fees, employees would be laid off to support rising maintenance costs, according to Garcia.
Removing the fee cap would not automatically raise fees. According to Garcia, students will only vote to determine whether fees will be allowed to increase, and then different departments and programs would go through a longer process to enact an increase. He said that students would still need to vote on major, costly purchases.
“We just want to have that ability to adjust them as needed,” he said. “If there’s no need to change the fee, then it won’t change that year.”
However, he said that if the senate puts the motion on the ballot and students voted in favor of removing the cap, the fees would most likely rise based on the state of the campus.
After Garcia’s initial presentation, senators attended several budget and committee meetings to discuss the bill, including an ad hoc meeting including student representatives from different departments, programs and organizations that use student fees.
Following the ad hoc meeting, Senator at Large Joel Sorensen, who most adamantly opposed the bill, weighed in with his concerns on what the measure would mean, calling it “out of touch” with the uncertain economic climate.
“The obvious direct result is that students are going to be paying more in fees,” he said. “What this would do is double down on the students and say well, because expenses are going up, let’s also raise the fees, and now they’re paying more for everything.”
Sorensen proposed that instead of removing the fee cap, the university could redistribute the costs of each fee based on which fees benefit the most students. He recommended lowering the Student Activity Fee and raising the Family Development Center Fee.
When asked what SGA would do to compensate for the loss from the other stagnant fees as inflation increases, Sorensen said, “It would be forced to make better financial decisions.”
“Repeatedly throughout the semester, the student government has, I believe, done very poorly with how they’ve allocated that money [from the Student Activity Fee],” he said.
One of Sorensen’s primary concerns was that the bill’s language failed to explain that if the economy were to experience a period of deflation as opposed to inflation, student fees would not decrease.
“No matter what inflation does, the fee will always be going in an upward motion,” he said. “The rationale for this is that as inflation is increasing, expenses are increasing.”
Sorensen raised this concern during the senate meeting, proposing an amendment that would clarify that fees would not fall if there was a period of deflation.
Most senators who discussed the amendment agreed that this verbiage was unnecessary, believing that students would understand fees would not decrease over time.
One supporter of the bill was Senator of Education Flora Jathanna, who said that even though most students would disagree with the idea of higher fees, “they do not know the cons of what [stagnant fees] could mean for so, so many departments.”
Senator of Innovation Mauricio Carrera said, “You could argue that they would also need to know what would happen if the fee isn’t increased.”
Other senators offered up the idea of a potential “blue book” that voters could look through if they wanted every detail about each ballot item.
The discussion eventually slowed as Senator of the Arts Chloe Rosenkrantz recommended that rather than fiercely debating one amendment, actions would mean more for the greater good: “Make a difference. Do something in your position. That’s what’s really important. Be mad and make change.”
When brought to a vote, SGA dismissed the amendment and passed the bill 14 to 1 in its original form to include student fee cap removal on the upcoming ballot.
Election Week is March 7 – 11.