This Year’s Drive-By Fee Increase Ploy, Watch Out!

Commentary       February 28, 2013 2:18 AMBy:        0 comments

Eric_SchroederTwo polls and a referendum were conducted at Texas A&M University last week concerning raising mandatory student fees so the additional revenue can purportedly be spent to pay down the bonds for the proposed Kyle Field renovation.

Much of this is for show, though.  Under the new University Advancement Fee (which is of questionable legality), the university administration no longer needs student referendum approval to increase fees.  They can hike your fee bill on a whim, without any affirmative vote on your part.

And even if a student referendum was still required, once the fee is increased, the funds can be used for anything.  There is no guarantee that the university administration will use the money for its advertised purpose, and once the project is paid for, they will still keep collecting that same fee revenue (pet projects, anyone?).

So it is important to realize that when voting in any student referendum relating to fees, you are NOT voting on whether you want the proposed project to occur; instead, you are voting only on whether you want to pay more student fees or not.

With both a poll and a referendum showing that students are overwhelmingly against a permanent increase in student fees, the view of the students is clear: The fees are too dang high.

But the poll conducted by the Office of the President (which was later discovered to be sent out to all administrators, faculty, and staff as well) showed that students were in support of permanently raising mandatory student fees by a margin of 55% to 45%. Isn’t it curious that two polls conducted by the students, of the students, differ from the poll conducted by President Loftin’s Office?

This goes right along with the trend we have seen in the past few years. From a proposed $120/year “Athletic Service Fee” that was struck down in the legislature two years ago, to the new University Advancement Fee (or Student Success Fee as it was initially passed), it is clear the administrators are looking to make a quick buck on the backs of already heavily burdened college students.

But we must remember that just because the university sells a fee one way to the students, there is no guarantee that this new money will be spent on what they said.

The proposed increase of mandatory student fees was sold to the students as a way to pay for a portion of the renovation of Kyle Field. But this is an increase in the UAF, a fee that was specifically created and designed for a lack of accountability and transparency.

We know the athletic department already receives a portion of their funding from student fees. We know there is almost no transparency in this new combination of fees (the UAF), which were previously allocated individually with set caps by the state legislature.

Why is it so hard for administrators to listen to the voice of the students? What is so hard to understand about the fact that students are already burdened with huge financial obligations? Why is it that the university administrators now feel they must indoctrinate as opposed to educate?

Katie_WasteMoneyGrasping the concept that the central purpose of the university is higher education is something that is very hard for some administrators. I picked Texas A&M due to it’s reputation in academics, not athletics. If I were deciding on what to do after high school by which university or group had the best athletic record, I’d ask Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs for a job.

 The minuscule $25 hike in season ticket prices to help fund this renovation makes the situation even more outrageous. If we are to renovate a football stadium that is enjoyed only by football fans, doesn’t it make sense to ask those who utilize the stadium to help fund it? It is like asking a vegetarian to help purchase your 40 oz Porterhouse steak…ridiculous!

 I would rather all of my mandatory student fees go to further my education. With the new implementation of the UAF, there is no transparency, no accountability, and no guarantee that my money is going where I think it is (assuming I even have a clue where it is going). What is to guarantee that the money raised with the increase in the UAF will actually go to fund the new stadium? Absolutely nothing!

The Texas A&M method for handling fees couldn’t be more divergent from Rick Perry’s philosophy.  Perry is looking into methods so that when the state is running a surplus, a refund would be given back to the taxpayers, who ultimately were overcharged for their government services.

At Texas A&M, the opposite is true.  We know that the university is sitting on a huge reserve of cash, on the order of $100 million just in the UAF, so why is it necessary to raise the fee? Why not lower the fees for the following year? The Rick Perry method would be to cut students refund checks.  Instead, the university administration asks for even more.

Why don’t they issue refunds or lower fees charged in excess?  Instead of being upfront, honest, and transparent about the university’s financial situation, especially regarding student fees, the university administrators would rather be hogs at the feed trough, sucking up every last dollar they can get their snouts on.

Students might be more willing to voluntary donate to the Kyle Field renovation if they felt the administration was being a good steward with their precious college funds.  Students might be willing to pay more for a sports pass if education was the primary focus of the tuition and fees they pay.

What is hard to grasp about students being on tight budgets? Why is the university sitting on huge reserves while asking students to empty their pockets to fund non-academic projects?

My only hope is that all of the students see the light, and that we can reform higher education to better fulfill the educational mission of the university. It’s time to return to the basics. Let’s return to our land grant mission. Let’s show the country what the 12th Man is really all about.

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