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Volume 68, Issue 46, Wednesday, October 30, 2002

News
 

Proposed fee hike to hit CLASS students

By Ray Hafner
Senior Staff Writer

A proposed fee increase for all majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is designed to stave off a "crisis situation," especially in the School of Communication and Department of Art, said CLASS Dean John Antel.

"If we are going to deliver a quality product to our students, we've got to get more resources," Antel said. 

All 7,000 CLASS students will pay the fee increase, which will take effect in Fall 2003. CLASS would increase the advising fee to $62 per semester from $25 and boost the instructional technology fee to $27, about $12 more than the current fee. That is in addition to some course-specific fees Antel said would be most pronounced in the art and communication departments, as well as in the Moores School of Music.

Antel will address the Student Government Association at its Senate meeting tonight to inform students about the possible increase in fees. The 7 p.m. meeting in the Mediterranean Room is open to the public.

Antel said technology is the driving force behind the fee increases because, "We need technology comparable to what's out there in the work force."

In areas such as graphics and photography, which used to be considered cheap areas of study, the advent of digital technology now requires equipment costing thousands of dollars to do things that in the past were done with mere paint and paper.

Antel said the increase would be small per student but reap large rewards for CLASS majors as a whole. The advising fee alone is expected to boost Fiscal Year 2004's revenue to $594,123 more than in FY '02.

The total of these two fees, $89, is far less than at the University of Texas at Austin, which has been in the news lately for hefty fee increases, Antel said. In 2002, UT's College of Fine Arts students paid $199 in fees for similar purposes and UT's College of Liberal Arts students paid $160. (UH's CLASS combines those areas of study.)

Still, Antel acknowledged that over three to four years it might be necessary to further raise the fees to UT's levels. He said increases would be spread out over several years, though, to avoid hitting students all at once.

"There's no way to avoid the reality of increased fees," he said.

CLASS isn't the only college raising student fees. The Bauer College of Business proposed in Fall 2001 to raise undergraduate fees to $90 from $20. Fees for graduate students rose about $100 per course

For the CLASS fee to be approved, UH's fee committee must first examine the proposed increases, ensuring strict accounting is practiced. State law requires these "incidental fees" must go to exactly where it's claimed they go, and only certain areas are considered acceptable to be funded by student fees.

Provost Edward Sheridan must approve the changes before the Board of Regents gets the final say in late spring. Antel said Sheridan supports the increases.

This fits the reality UH President Arthur K. Smith outlined earlier this month when he said a lack of state funds was "shifting the cost of higher education to students and their families."

SGA Vice President Jon Quintanilla said at the last SGA meeting, when Antel's presentation was announced, that these fees are unavoidable. "They're going to happen," he said.

Tuition at Texas' public universities, set by the state Legislature, is unlikely to change. In recent years, universities across Texas and the United States have been raising student fees to generate more cash. This allows state funds to be directed away from student service areas so they can be spent in other areas, such as hiring adjunct faculty, Antel said.

"Everything we do is going to increase the service level to students," Antel said.

The advising fee funds will allow CLASS to hire four more advisers and also will be spent on the career center, which is to open soon. The advising hours would be extended to help non-traditional students.

The two other options for finding funds would be to lobby the Legislature or to seek out donors, Antel said. With a projected statewide budget deficit of up to $12 billion, the Legislature seems unlikely, and finding money from donors is a "slow and arduous process" that gets varied results from year to year, he said.

Student fees could be an enormous boon, Antel said. A student-imposed library fee "has made all the difference in the world (for the library)," he said, allowing for all the computers that are in the front lobby of the library.

Next year, Antel said CLASS would begin to "rationalize" fees by department. This means poets would pay lower technology fees than students studying 3-D graphic design. The goal is to spread the burden, so that those who use the most will pay the most, Antel said.

After talking to communication and art students about the increases, Antel said most were supportive.

"Most believe that if they really get a better product, it's worth it," he said.

Antel joined UH 21 years ago as an associate economics professor and views the fee increases as a classic case of supply and demand.

Without the fee jumps, the effect could seriously hurt UH's standing as a university, he said.

"In 10 years, this would not be a place people would want to attend."

 Send comments to dcnews@mail.uh.edu

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