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Volume 72, Issue 95, Monday, February 19, 2007

News

Outside factors could impact fees

by KELSIE HAHN
The Daily Cougar 

When the Student Fees Advisory Committee raises student service fees, the causes are often out of its hands. 

Raises can stem from falling enrollment, rising energy costs or actions of legislators.

"Hopefully we won't have to raise any fees," SFAC chair Jeremy Ruth said. "But there are things that are beyond our control." 

Student service fees increased to $176 from $160 for fiscal year 2007, an increase Dean of Students William Munson said was caused by both falling enrollment and a hike in utility costs from rising gas prices.

"The most significant factor is the enrollment trend if the enrollment trend is declining, we lose income," he said.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Administration Diane Murphy said enrollment is expected to fall "slightly" for the fiscal year 2008.

"SFAC should budget conservatively, which we did this year," she said. 

Munson said gas prices only exacerbated problems caused by smaller enrollments. 

"Now (gas prices) have leveled off, but in a two-year period utilities increased approximately 55 percent. There were real issues there," Munson said.

Assistant Director of Utility Services Sameer Kapileshwari said the chances of the cost of utilities decreasing are slim. 

"That doesn't seem like it's going to come down any time shortly," he said.

One issue that may be a possible concern for this year's SFAC is Congressional legislation raising the minimum wage to $7.25 from $5.15 per hour over a two-year period.

The bill was passed in the House in mid-January and was passed by the Senate, with an amendment to include tax breaks for small businesses, Feb. 1.

The bill must pass both houses in identical form before it can become law, though Democratic legislators have made an increase in the minimum wage a priority, CNN reported.

"If we're required to increase those student salaries, that would be another impact," Munson said.

State mandated hikes in employee salaries can also affect student service fees. 

Riaz said a campus-wide 2 percent hike in salaries that took effect Jan. 1 affected groups funded by student fees.

"(The raise) has already been taken into account for the fiscal year that is going on right now, and the units that come in and make requests for the next year will have it built into their budgets," he said.

Munson noted that student service fees will almost always have to go up.

"The question is to try to keep it at a rate that's reasonable," he said. 

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