University evaluates fee structure

Concerns from the Board of Regents prompted an in-depth review of student fees, which help fund student groups and classroom activities.

by Katherine Lymn

With the first third of tuition due today, money is on the mind of many University of Minnesota students. On top of tuition, which rose three percent for in-state students this fall, students at the University pay a series of fees each year that help fund student groups, classroom activities and a variety of other programs. The University is currently reviewing these fees for appropriateness and effectiveness, said Budget Director Julie Tonneson . Tonneson said fees are reviewed annually, but the review currently taking place is more in-depth than others. She said the review is in response to questions raised by the Board of Regents concerning whether or not the UniversityâÄôs fee structure is up to date. âÄúItâÄôs a broader, policy-level review,âÄù she said. Any changes that come about because of the review would go into effect in fall 2010. The review process will take approximately four more months, Tonneson said, but the review could result in no changes and serve as a verification of the current policy. One area of focus for the review is the University Fee , which costs students $60 per credit per semester for up to 10 credits. Tonneson said the fee was adopted during Mark Yudof âÄôs presidency at the University because Yudof wanted an overarching fee that covered general University costs. Since then, the budget model has been reviewed and the University fee is now used similarly to tuition dollars. âÄúItâÄôs just a flat form of tuition that all students pay,âÄù said University Senior Budget Analyst Peter Zetterberg . Tonneson said the Office of Budget and Finance is considering rolling this fee in with regular tuition to make finances âÄúmore streamlinedâÄù and âÄúless confusing,âÄù she said. A more comprehendible fee is the Student Services fee, which was $348.41 this semester and goes toward funding student groups, Boynton Health Service and a variety of other, smaller programs used by students throughout their time at the University. Senior Activities Advisor Erich Martin said student groups can apply for this funding and an extensive review process follows to determine if the group will receive what they requested. âÄúSome student groups ask for as little as $1,200; others ask for as much as $90,000. It really runs the gamut,âÄù he said. Requests for student group funding are due Jan. 22 . The committee, which is made up of 23 University students and one staff member, then reviews the requests after a series of presentations, deliberations and public hearings. Vice Provost of Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart is the last to approve the requests before they head to the Board of Regents for final approval, which happens in June; funding is put in place the following fall semester, said Martin. Minnesota International Student Association (MISA) Secretary of Finance and economics junior Arnav Doshi said the group was one of few groups to have its request fulfilled. âÄúWe got what we wanted, yes,âÄù Doshi said. âÄúWe showed them we were going to help other organizations.âÄù Altogether, the fee funds 44 different programs at the University, among them 33 student groups. The University Student Legal Service receives the most of all groups, $14.13 from each student, and the Middle Eastern Student Association receives the least âÄî $0.03 from each student. Tonneson said technology, collegiate and course fees, which vary from $50 for Mortuary Science students to $700 for nursing program students, are proposed by the individual departments. These proposals are submitted electronically, reviewed by the Office of Budget and Finance and are then presented to the Board of Regents. Tonneson said, when reviewing proposed technology, collegiate or course fees, the Office of Budget and Finance makes sure the proposals are consistent with Regents policy. She said course fees are meant for consumable materials, transportation or a demand for service, such as hiring someone from outside the University to help in some way in a course. âÄúThe majority of changes are approved,âÄù Tonneson said. An assortment of other fees students pay goes towards the new stadium, student government groups and other scattered divisions of the University.