Column: Student service fee bills at State Legislature could cause harm

The proposed legislation would jeopardize student exploration and support.

Taylor Sharp

To make it through college is to acknowledge the continued challenge of maintaining a supple bank account. I think we could all attest to this.

The Minnesota Daily reported this week on two new bills introduced at the state Legislature that would require the University of Minnesota and other state institutions to make mandatory student service fees optional. The intent would be to make college more affordable, especially for those who don’t take advantage of student groups.

The proposed legislation comes at a time when the number of student groups requesting funding at the University has increased. The fee per semester, too, has risen from around $305 in 2006 to more than $430 in 2016.

When considering these proposals from the perspective of a conscientious college student, the bills seem to leave some leftover money in my pocket while impacting distant, nameless groups.

But around 93 percent of the fees support units like Boynton Health, University Recreation and Wellness, Student Unions and Activities, University Student Legal Services, the Aurora Center and the Student Conflict Resolution Center, according to the Daily’s report. I, personally, utilize some of those services. Bystander or not, I know that funding impacts students.

A point I continue to reiterate throughout my columns is college’s ability to shape our attitudes and interests in life. This year in particular I’ve joined several clubs — Phony Magazine, to name one — in order to stay involved on campus.

Not only have I met exuberant and talented people through these pursuits, I have experienced the feeling that comes with the benefits these groups provide.

The fact that my classes are English-related has played a role in guiding my interests, no doubt, but thriving campus student groups have allowed me to explore other interests and opportunities — like comedy and journalism.

This is just a personal anecdote that demonstrates my desire for groups around the University to be suitably funded.

Despite the appetizing prospect that an optional student service fee might aid frugality, these proposals may harm the resources around campus that are invaluable to the people beyond me or my wallet. The assurance that a diverse array of health programs exist and are well-equipped is a source of comfort for many on campus.

Student costs could be reduced through other areas that don’t disrupt student groups at the University. I will say that the $432.18 per semester seems justified. In a month I might be griping about the undetermined amount in my Flexdine, but every campus group ought to meet without the fear of lost funding, so I’m happy to pay.