The Associated Students of Portland State University did not approve the Student Fee Committee’s 2018–19 budget proposal during a senate meeting Monday, Jan. 22. ASPSU senate asked the SFC to provide more data on how its budget would affect low-income and part-time students.
“Most [fee funded areas] supplied enough information to support why they should be funded,” said SFC Chair Mahamadou Sissoko at the meeting. “If they didn’t have the metrics, we cut them and asked them to come back with metrics to support the facts.”
Increased fees for some part-time students
The SFC proposed terminating the current student fee structure, which prorates fees for part-time students—those taking fewer than 12 credits. Under the new fee structure, students taking 8–12 credits would pay a flat rate student incidental fee of $223 per term.
PSU’s Student Incidental Fee currently pays for Smith Memorial Student Union, student groups, access to the Academic and Student Recreation Center and athletics.
Students taking fewer than eight credits only get partial access to the services supported by student incidental fees, while at eight credits or more, students get full access to all services.
Current fees would not change for students taking fewer than eight credits, but the 8,000 students now taking between eight and 12 credits would pay $60 more per semester.
Full-time students taking 12 or more credits would only see a $2 increase. However, these full-time students also receive the most Pell Grant money if they are eligible for federal financial aid. Part-time students only receive partial Pell Grant funding.
The proposed fee structure would model many student incidental fee structures at other universities, including Oregon State University and University of Oregon, both of which charge a flat fee for students at every credit level.
The senate asked the SFC for a breakdown of how access to fee-funded services on campus would change at each credit level, particularly how much access students taking seven or fewer credits have to these benefits. Sissoko argued the fee increase would allow part-time students to keep their current access to fee-funded services.
ASPSU President Brent Finkbeiner said senate members want to better understand how this fee jump would truly affect those part-time students just shy of a full-time load.
“How many of those students are receiving financial aid?” Finkbeiner said. “How many of those students are low income? How will they [be affected by] this tuition increase?”
“The budget [for] 2017 compared to 2018 is an increase already because of minimum wage,” Sissoko said at the meeting. “What the SFC [proposes] is to allow them to keep the same level of [student fee] services. It was either increase [the student fee] or cut the fee funded areas.”
The senate also discussed raising the student fee early in anticipation of another minimum wage increase during the 2019–20 fiscal year. However, the SFC responded by saying its the committee’s legal responsibility to only make decisions for the 2018–19 fiscal year.
“Next year, [minimum wage] will go up $1.25,” Finkbeiner said. “So whatever the SFC had to do this year to help fund minimum wage and the other services [is] going to be even worse next year.”
“[The senate will] decide whether to agree with their revised proposal or reject it and [propose] our own,” said ASPSU Vice President Donald Thompson. “So that means we would send two separate proposals to the president.”
Finkbeiner said he hopes the SFC will be able to provide the information necessary for the senate and the committee to recommend one unified budget.
SFC budget updates will be available on psuvanguard.com to reflect the ASPSU senate meeting on Monday, Jan. 29.