Crunching the numbers
TNH breaks down mandatory student fees
The UNH Athletics Department charges the highest fee and is $401 more than the second highest. UNH Athletic Director Marty Scarano said student fees comprise $11 million of the $26.5 million budget for Athletics.
Over the past few years mandatory student fees have gone up or flat-lined. The biggest concern, aside from how much students pay to attend the University of New Hampshire, is not only the digits next to the dollar sign; it's how those digits are being spent.
The New Hampshire sat down with representatives of different organizations on campus that charge mandatory student fees tacked on to tuition costs. The major groups that charge fees are listed on the Business Services webpage: health services and counseling, the memorial union, student recreation, transportation, technology and athletics.
While the fees can seem daunting and forever increasing, the goal of these department directors is not to burden students.
"Our hope is to stabilize the student fee," Marty Scarano, director of UNH Athletics, said.
"I'd like to get more money back into the students' hands," Stacey Hall, director of Campus Recreation, said. "We have about 14 different positions that students serve in. And they're basically running the building right now, with all the different activities in here."
Most of the money that runs these programs is student-funded, with some exceptions. Collectively, each fee for each student pays for a year's worth of activities, building maintenance, staff salaries, and a few other things.
"Almost 100 percent of our budget is student fees," MaryAnne Lustgraaf, director of the Memorial Union Building, said.
Overall findings suggest that currently the fees are largest for the athletic department, coming in at around $990 per student for this academic year. In second is the combined Health Services and counseling fee at $589, though the UNH Counseling Center's place in the budget is actually $138 by itself for this academic school year.
Student Recreation charges the third largest fee, which is $492 for full-time undergrads for 2013-2014. In fourth place is the Memorial Union Building, which charges $359. The technology fee charges $182; the smallest fee is the Transportation fee, which asks for $119 per student per year.
Each fee is increasing for the 2014-2015 academic school year. The "Student Activity" fee, as its own category, is charging the new lowest rate on the budget: $96 per year from each undergraduate student.
Based on interviews with directors from the Memorial Union Building, Student Recreation, Transportation Services, the Counseling Center and Athletics, the fees can increase from year to year. Typically, they do.
Each department is different. For the most part, the fees go towards paying off loans on buildings and general facility maintenance. The fees also go towards staff salaries, both for students and full-time faculty.
With millions of dollars in revenue, the questions remains: how is student money being spent?
"A lot of the money taken out of the MUB's budget goes to help other things on campus," Lustgraaf said.
The Memorial Union Building asks for $359 per student. Next year, the fee will increase to $362, which is less than a one percent increase. Lustgraaf said she has to raise the fee to meet expense costs.
"When [students] pay that MUB fee of $350 dollars, roughly, [it] looks like a lot," she said. "And it's a $4.5 million budget. But the reality is, $1.6 [or 1.7] million goes right off in square footage. This never see it."
The Memorial Union Building fee, as well as the Student Recreation fee and Athletics fee, is put towards a budget model called RCM, or Responsibility Center Management.
The University of Pennsylvania implemented its own RCM model in 1974. The university's budget webpage describes RCM: "Under this model, all schools and responsibility centers are responsible for managing their direct revenue and expense. Schools, resource centers and auxiliaries are expected to incorporate into their budgets an appropriate allocated share of the cost of central administrative services."
The Memorial Union Building at the University of New Hampshire is part of the RCM budget model. Under that model, Lustrgraaf said she pays over $27 per square foot of space.
The rest of the money is also allocated for.
"$990,000, almost a million, goes right off to pay the heva bond, when the MUB addition was put on in 1995," Lustgraaf said. "Students are still paying for that. It's a 30-year bond. So, there's another million."
But paying off expenses is not the only thing the MUB fee goes towards.
The MUB employs over 120 students. Student fees help pay their salaries, along with full-time staff salaries.
According to the Business Services UNH webpage, the fee also covers space for programs, meeting areas, major public events, movies and other entertainment.
"When you look around," Lustgraaf said, "what we provide, this is where students feel that it's their building."
Right now, the Counseling Center fee is $138 per student per year. For fiscal year 2015, the fee will rise by 11.6 percent.
"The primary increase in that is that when I met with Student Senate, I explained to them that the demand for clinical services is increasing, and the intensity of the mental health issues that students are presenting is also increasing," David Cross, counseling center director, said. "We were understaffed."
As a result, Cross asked for two 10-month positions when he asked for a budget increase from Student Senate. Normally, Cross said, the counseling fee raises by $2 to $4 every year. For 2015, though, Student Senate approved the 11.6 percent fee increase.
According to Cross and the Counseling Center website, the fee covers consultation/intake appointments, six to eight individual counseling sessions, group therapy, 24/7 around-the-clock emergency care, and an after-hours help line.
"I don't have as large a staff as say, health services, which has a much larger staff. I think they have over 50 employees - doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, health educators, things like that," Cross said. "So, my budget is mostly salary driven. It's the salaries of the staff psychologists that work here and the fringe benefit."
To consolidate data, the Counseling Center publishes an annual shareholder's report.
Based on the report for 2012-2013, "Counseling Center staff provided clinical services to 7.3 percent of the UNH student community. Of these, 74 percent were female and 98 percent were under the age of 24," the report said. "For the most part, these numbers mirrored the population demographics of the UNH student population."
Cross explained that the Counseling Center sees anywhere from 8 to 10 percent of the student body. That's roughly 1,300-1,400 students per year for both graduate and undergraduate students.
The Counseling Center treats short-term and long-term issues. The annual report said that student clientele come in for a variety of concerns: mood disorders (67 percent), anxiety (51 percent), relationship problems (27.7 percent), personality concerns (17.9 percent), adjustment difficulties (17.1 percent), learning disability (8.8 percent), substance abuse (8.4 percent), eating concerns (7.5 percent) and other (6.3 percent).
Cross said the fee acts like an insurance policy.
"Some students might say, 'Well, I don't use the rec center, I don't use student activities in the MUB, I don't see why I should have to pay that fee,'" Cross said. "But for counseling, they think 'Well, the four or five years I'm here, you never know. Maybe I might need the Counseling Center.'"
The athletic fee is estimated around $990 for the current academic year and will be $998 next year. According to Athletics Director Marty Scarano, that sum covers a lot.
"This could take hours, so I won't get into that," Scarano said of talking about what the fee covers. "I would say to you this: it doesn't get designated to any one area of the budget. It's a very complex budget. It's $26.5 million. Student fees comprise about $11 million of that budget."
The biggest notable difference between the athletic fee and other mandatory fees is its hybridity, Scarano said.
"Ticket sales are important," Scarano said, talking about the various revenue streams that go into UNH Athletics. "That's about $2.7 million a year, generally all through hockey. There's some associated with football."
Scarano said other revenue streams come from guarantees, which provide a big source of revenue to athletics departments, according to Forbes.com. The UNH Athletics department gets revenue from various places: NCAA subsidies for sponsoring teams and scholarships, endowments, ancillary forms of revenue through things like rentals, team fundraising, gifts from benefactors, and royalties from things like sold media rights.
"I welcome the discussion about student fees," Scarano said. "It's been contentious in the past, and in some years, it's easier than others. But I hope people appreciate what we do with the resource we're given. I think we really maximize the resources and have a great product, with our athletic teams that represent the university well."
Each director The New Hampshire talked to mentioned the involvement of one common group: Undergraduate Student Senate and Graduate Student Senate.
According to the directors, each year, they must plan a budget and present it to the two student senates. The student reps will talk to the directors and approve fees. Therefore, students are not absent from the equation. Unfortunately, specific members from Student Senate could not be reached in time for this article.
"We have a good rapport with the students, student representative, and we have a Transit Advisory Committee which meets four times per year to review services provided. Students are members of this committee," Dirk Timmons, director of Univeristy Transportation Services, said in an email.
Timmons tracked ridership and last year, and the number of students that rode the transit system totaled 1,184,426. Already, it looks like that number will be beat this year.
"Wildcat Transnit recently received an A-plus rating from Niche College Prowler student poll," Timmons said in the email.
Cross is pleased with the feedback from students as well.
"My colleagues, I think, are envious when I have my [budget meeting] with student senate," Cross said. "I go right through and have students stand up and give me testimony that either they or their friend had used the counseling center and how valuable it was. And this year, in particular, because my fee was raising almost 12 percent, they still were supportive."
Lustgraaf said that through all the things the MUB does, the students make it worth it. Lustgraaf talked about the TEDx talks and how, even at 7:30 a.m., students show up. Many of them now give their own talks.
"What's cool about TEDx now is that after we've done them for a couple of years, half of our presenters are now students. Not staff and faculty," Lustgraaf said. "Half of them are leadership students. Many of them who got their start by sitting in a TEDx saying, 'I think I can do that.' Now they're ... making a difference on this campus."
"That's why I do this job," she said. "That's why I do this job."
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