UB to hold open forum on future student fee increases

"Fee stewards" will answer student questions from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on Thursday

UB students have a chance to make their voices heard this week at an open forum on a proposed student fee increase.

The forum will take place Thursday, Feb. 15 from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in 210 Student Union, beginning with a half-hour long Q&A session with Campus Living Director Tom Tiberi, Associate Director of Student Activities and Organizations Kerry Spicer and Assistant Director of Student Activities and Organizations Luke Haumesser, before a town hall meeting with UB fee stewards from 3 to 5 p.m.

Undergraduates paid $2,761 in the 2017-18 academic year toward a broad-based fee, made up of nine individual charges for services including intercollegiate sports, technology and transportation. Graduate students paid $2,198 last year.

The Office of the Provost announced a 2.53 percent increase in an emailed statement to students Feb. 9, which would raise undergraduate’s annual fees $277.50 by 2023. The increases are to support state-mandated increases in salaries, minimum wage, benefits, inflation, increased technology and library costs and services; and central academic investments, according to the university.

Fee increases are also proposed to support several new programs, including a new web-based health services program called the “Failing Forward Resiliency Project” and a new “Healthier Campus” initiative, which will adopt nutritional and physical activity guidelines and programming. Another proposed service is a license plate recognition project, meant to improve the “communication of availability of spaces to students.”

SA President Leslie Veloz said she hopes students will come and offer constructive participation and opinions on the proposed fees.

“[Student] opinions will absolutely play a role in how the fees are utilized,” Veloz said. “I think it’s really important students attend so that administrators can understand what the needs of students are and how [administrators] should be using the money.”

From 2016-17, UB collected $57,955,000 through the comprehensive fee. The greatest percentage of that money, $8,981,900, went toward the Athletics Fee.

The next largest amount of money went toward Campus Life, which received $5,362,600, to cover a variety of expenses, including student leadership roles, Distinguished Speaker Series and the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy.

Thursday’s town hall event is in compliance with a SUNY-mandated policy, which says universities must justify their fee increases and offer input to students.

“One of our goals this year is to broaden the lines of communication with the administration,” Veloz said. “A lot of students do not understand what they are charged for.”

Tiberi said the Campus Life department has adopted a new design for this year’s venue in an effort to better inform students. The orientation prior to the Q&A is a way to inform interested students on where their money is spent, Tiberi said. He hopes it will help engage students in the following meeting and inform them what goes into the budgeting process.

Many UB students said they are confused about where their money goes and how exactly it is spent.

“The fact that we have those fees makes me more inclined to use the services,” said sophomore nursing major Abby Fain. “Next semester I was thinking about going off-campus to live but I pay for transportation. So instead of using my car, my money and my gas, I’m going to take the bus.”

Of the fifteen students asked, none were aware of the consultation event this Thursday and many were also unaware of the proposed fee increase.

Max Slick is a staff writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com.