Fee increases are on the horizon for students at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. School officials made presentations and addressed student concerns about the proposed increase during the Student Government Association meeting Nov. 11.
President William Staples assured students he is aware of the financial pinch such an increase will incur.
“Do I know tuition increases are a hardship? I do,” Staples said.
The university predicts an overall increase of 5-6 percent that will go into effect fall 2009.
A portion of the increased revenue is slated for student services.
“The student fees will be used to fund three student support services positions: van driver, Fitness Zone coordinator and coordinator of orientation,” said Anthony Jenkins, dean of students. “These fees and their use were voted on by the Student Life Council.”
Darlene Biggers, associate vice president of student services, said student demand for these services necessitates the establishment of full-time rather than part-time positions.
A portion of the increased revenue will also go toward institutional advancement.
“We all want our university to grow, and this requires additional funding,” Jenkins said. “These fees will go toward improving the infrastructure of our campus and making sure we can recruit and retain quality students, faculty and staff. These funds will go to ensure we can keep pace with technological needs and the development of new and needed student support programs and services.”
Additionally, some of the money will fund mandated salary increases and cover the cost of course supplies, lab equipment and field trips.
Students voted on the proposed increases at the SGA meeting Nov. 18. Four separate votes were taken on each increase: the student services fee, UCT fee, School of Business database fee, and course fees proposed by the Schools of Business, Human Science and Humanities, and Science and Computer Engineering.
The student services fee increase was the only measure approved by students.
“Many of the students, including the executive council, felt the need to increase the fee by a total of $6 mainly because these services are essential to the quality of student success,” said Patrick Cardenas, SGA president.
The SGA and several studentsvoted to approve the course based fee increase. However, the majority did not support the increase.
“Many students were torn against this fee proposal,” Cardenas said. “Students felt that we should have voted on each school separately and not as a combined proposal. Many students, including the executive council, felt it was necessary to support the course based fees to ensure institutional effectiveness. It is important to develop competitive schools at this university so we will be in top ranking with other top universities.”
Tina Stokes, Planning and Budgeting Committee student representative, voiced concerns about the generality of the justifications for the fee increases. Stokes said students did not understand the purpose of the increases and would have benefited from specific explanations.
Stokes also said the vote was not representative of the student body as a whole because many students attend night classes. The meetings and vote were held at 11:30 a.m.
Students who were not able to attend the meetings can visit http://prtl.uhcl.edu/portal/page/portal/SLO/SGA and click on the SGA audio icon to listen to the fee proposals.
The student vote will go to the PBC , which will in turn make recommendations to the University Council. The final decision rests with Staples.
The rising cost of education is a result of the Texas Legislature’s decision to deregulate tuition in 2003. Since then, students have seen sharp increases in tuition rates as the state has withdrawn the majority of appropriations and left students footing the bill.
“There is more demand for services, but there are less resources coming into the university,” Biggers said. “With the deregulation of tuition a couple of years ago, what the state was really saying was, ‘We’re going to give you less money. Get what you need from the students.’”
Texas lawmakers recently filed a number of bills in an attempt to rectify this conundrum. Solutions suggested include a two-year tuition freeze and a return to state-regulated tuition rates.
“Students, faculty, administrators and the community can e-mail or send a letter regarding their concerns with the lack of funding in our education system,” Stokes said. “The more pressure we have on legislators, the greater the impact.”
Visit http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Reports/General.aspx and click on “Filed House Bills” and “Filed Senate Bills” to view all tuition-related bills.
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