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Segregated fees rise

Megan Hanna , Editor-In-Chief
May 6, 2014
Filed under News, Top Stories

Although UW-Green Bay has one of the lowest tuitions in the state, segregated fees are set to rise 5.95 percent for the 2014-15 academic year due to a deficit of about half a million dollars.

Students will pay $730 per semester — the highest segregated fee in the UW System by data currently available for 2014-15.

“I don’t like raising fees,” said Chancellor Thomas Harden. “It’s been a goal of mine to not raise fees.”

Harden wasn’t alone in the decision-making process. The approval process for determining the budgets for services funded by segregated fees begins with the student-run Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee, and members have several discussions. Items then go to a vote by the Student Government Association senate. SUFAC writes an official recommendation to the chancellor. who must approve this recommendation before it is sent to the UW Board of Regents for final approval.

Segregated fees are separate from tuition and help fund non-academic programs, services and facilities.

Michael Stearney, Dean of Enrollment Services, said segregated fees are like taxes, in a way.

“If I live in a little community, I pay my taxes and they give me police protection, fire protection, plow my roads and pick up my garbarge — those sorts of things. So you tax students and that provides things lika a health care center, counseling center, sports center, union, etc.,” Stearney said.

There are two categories of segregated fees, allocable and non-allocable, or auxiliary.

Allocable fees fund things like student government and organizations. Non-allocable fees

fund the Counseling and Health Center, Student Life and Good Times Programming, athletics, intramurals, the Kress Events Center, the Dean of Students Office and the University Union. About 95 percent of seg fees goes to these non-allocables.

Heads from departments present their budgets to the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee, the same student-run organization other student organizations present their budgets to.

SUFAC hears the nonallocable presentations, has discussions and then sends a recommendation to the Chancellor’s Office.

“The overwhelming consensus of the board was that we didn’t want to go above a 2 or 3 percent segregated fee increase,” said Vice Chair of SUFAC Reed Heintzkill. “What we originally suggested in our meeting with the chancellor was to implement a 5-10 percent cut to all those auxiliary budgets, and that was absolutely not something they wanted to hear.”

However, according to Harden and Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance Kelly, this cut was not issued to them as an offical recommendation.

Auxiliaries made no cuts to their budgets for 2014-15, but kept them flat, according to Heintzkill. However, about $200,000 was taken from reserve accounts that have been created from surpluses over the years, Heintzkill said.

“If you actually look at a lot of the budgets, they kept them flat even though the amount of money they were spending went up,” Heintzkill said. “But they’re actually spending more than they were before because they’re eating into their reserves. That’s just not sustainable.”

SUFAC made cuts to the allocable funds to budgets for student organizations because they wanted to send a message, Heintzkill said.

“By cutting our student org budgets we were setting an example of financial responibility,” Heintzkill said.

Despite SUFAC’s interest in cuts, Harden said cuts to non-allocable budgets could impact enrollment.

“If students don’t have the amenities they would expect in a university, they might not choose to come here. Or once they get here they might not have the support and activities they want,” Harden said. “We have to be careful that we don’t cut things to the degree that it really impacts students’ satisfaction.”

According to many people at the administrative level, the deficit and subsequent rise in segregated fees is the result of low enrollment.

Stearney said the freshman class this past year was smaller than the previous year by about 100 students.

“To maintain the level of funded services, a smaller number of students has to bear a bigger share of the costs,” Stearney said. “Obviously we want to provide the same quality of experience as any other school, but realtively speaking, we’re a smaller school. We’re challenged to provide the whole comprehensive experience with a smaller base of seg-fee payers.”

According to Stearney, a complicating factor is calculating full-time enrollment.

The FTE is calculated ahead of time and used to estimate how much money from seg fees will be available for the upcoming academic year.

However, the FTE is not equal to the number of individuals attending the university because not all students are full-time.

“FTE is basically 15 credits,” Stearney said. “So that could be one student taking 15 credits or five students taking three credits each. Both of those would equal a full-time equivalent in FTE.”

Stearney said the ratio between individuals and FTEs has declinced partly because of the increasing number of returning adult students who are often part-time students.

Franz said he and Student Life Program Coordinator John Landrum worked together to determine the FTE.

“The FTE is usually a conservative projection,” Stearney said. “You rather conservatively project the FTE and find out we have a little more seg fees rather than overestimate the FTE and find yourself a little bit short.”

However, Heintzkill felt this year’s projection wasn’t conservative enough.

“The number we used for enrollment was an optimistic enrollment and it wasn’t realistic,” Heintzkill said. “The actual enrollees were significantly less.”

For many, the decline in enrollment was larger than expected.

“This fall was the first decline in enrollment we’ve had in a long time,” Harden said. “We’ve been pretty flat and growing a bit. We’re doing all that we think we can do to keep it from getting worse and to turn it around as quickly as we can. It sounds like it would be simple, but it’s a very complicated issue.”

UW-Green Bay’s enrollment isn’t low in just the freshman class.

Stearney said UWGB has had at least five successive record-graduating classes. More students graduating means fewer students enrolled.

“These fairly large classes are now graduated so the number of continuing students has gone down,” Stearney said. “We haven’t filled in on the front side as fast as they’re leaving to maintain enrollment quite where we’d like it to be.”

This difficulty in replacing graduating seniors with new freshmen could be linked to smaller class sizes in Wisconsin, particularly our area of the state, according to Harden and Stearney.

“It’s not hard to guess how many college-going student there are,” Stearney said. “You just ask yourself how many first graders there are.”

Stearney said the trend will continue until about 2016. Numbers are then projected to increase, however, Stearney said they won’t return to their previous highs.

According to Stearney, another factor is the increase in the number of universities, including insitutions like Rasmussen College and Globe University.

However, Harden feels that UWGB’s low tuition is still an incentive for students to come here.

“It’s important to look at fees, but don’t overlook the fact that we have one of the lowest tuitions in the state,” Harden said. “We’re certainly down there in costs to go to school.”