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New fee to alleviate OSA budget crunch

Agnes Hoffman, associate vice provost for enrollment, unveiled plans for a new $5 fee to be implemented fall term 2003, intended to offset a proposed $300,000 cut to Student Services, at an open forum Thursday.

The fee would raise an estimated $400,000, depending on whether it would be assessed during summer term. The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) will allocate any money that doesn’t go to alleviate the budget shortfall to deserving departments.

Whether the new fee will be approved and put into effect is still unknown, but the university must decide by the end of April if it wishes to include the new fee in this coming year’s budget.

According to Hoffman, the proposed cut would come at a time when student enrollment is increasing, and budget allocations for student services such as advising and orientation are stagnating.

She explained that these services were directly linked to student retention and graduation rates.

Hoffman explained that the fee was intended to address PSU’s bottom-rung ranking among Oregon University System (OUS) schools for graduation and retention rates.

PSU retains 66.4 percent of its freshman class after one year, and sees only 32 percent of students graduate in six years, the lowest among OUS schools.

Hoffman connected these numbers directly to the work that is done in Student Services.

“I am embarrassed by the job we do,” she said.

To remedy this situation, OSA has planned to create an integrated learning center, to provide tutoring and the like. If the proposed cut goes through, according to Hoffman, those plans would be scrapped.

KPSU station manager David Jimenez expressed concerns that the fee, in tandem with the current tuition surcharge, would signal a trend to fund university operations through direct student fee assessments.

Jimenez asked what message would be sent to the state if the university continued to show a willingness to resolve funding problems with direct fees.

Hoffman acknowledged the concern, but asked if sending a clear message to the state about the budgetary crises was worth the continual under-serving of students.

The fee is still in its early planning stages and many details have yet to be worked out. However, Hoffman confirmed that OSA is intending to have the fee attached as a separate line item and that it would be re-evaluated at some point in the future.

Though the original goal was to re-evaluate the necessity of the fee a year after its inception, it is unclear at this time whether or not retention figures will be available a year after the proposed fall start-up date.

Hoffman was also able to confirm that the fee would be assessed to all students, regardless of course load. OSA determined that drawing funds from all students was more equitable as even part-time students benefit from the services connected with the fee.

When asked if there was precedent for the funding of student services coming directly from fees, Hoffman offered that the University of Oregon has a similar $15 fee.

Called a registration fee, the justification provided to OUS for the new fee in 2002 at the University of Oregon said, “This fee is to cover the fixed costs of registering and incorporating a student into the student body each term.”

UO Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Jim Buch said that while the fee is used to fund some student services such as registration and aspects of financial aid, the dispersal of the fees is not handled by the Division of Student Affairs, like the proposed fee at PSU would be.

For further information, contact the Office of Student Affairs at 503-725-4422 or [email protected]