With the tuition deadline quickly approaching, many students may be wondering if they have a say in where their money is going, especially with student fees providing buildings and services they might never step foot in.
Members of UCSU say they are taking another step in the constitutional amendment process by revising language in the constitution that concerns the appropriation of student funds used for supporting future capital construction fees.
UCSU tri-executives say they are teaming up with CU regents to give the entire student body a voice in construction funding for academic and athletic buildings. UCSU is also working to employ preventive measures on how student fees will be used in the future, according to Dustin Farivar, a tri-executive and junior political science major.
University officials say UCSU has been working with administrators to address student say in construction fees.
“The student government representatives expressed very well to regents the concern of imposing things on students,” said Ken McConnellogue, associate vice president for the university. “Regents like to see change to the constitution by those that are closest to it, and that’s the students.”
Although many say the funding of construction projects should be the state’s responsibility, with the economic strain and lack of state funding for higher education, students are being asked to fund building projects, McConnellogue said.
“It was a real statement of leadership (by the regents), but the funding shouldn’t fall back on students,” Farivar said. “Regents, in spirit, proposed a policy that they didn’t want students paying. They are looking out for students and lessening the burden of paying a really expensive bill.”
Regents and tri-executives say they are concerned that student fees are being wrongfully applied to non-student services such as academic and athletic buildings. Ryan Biehle, tri-executive and senior political science major, said UCSU hopes to improve so that student fees will only be applicable for funding student-driven projects that will benefit all students, such as the Rec Center.
“We imagine students don’t like paying a $400 fee, but we hope that they can see the value in paying fees that fund good things on campus and things students use,” Biehle said. “It’s a great opportunity to get students involved and say how they want fees to be levied.”
Some students say they agree and view capital construction funding as a responsibility of the state.
“I personally think adding $400 to the Rec Center or other buildings is ludicrous because I don’t think it is our responsibility,” said Will Thomas, a senior history major. “I think it’s a problem that the state isn’t doing dick for higher funding, and because the state isn’t doing anything about it. The state wants to use us as a crutch in this economy.”
The current standing revision of the policy in the UCSU constitution reads: “Any new fee, the purpose of which is to make annual payments on long-term debt for the construction or remodeling of a building which is primarily used for academic purposes, may only be approved by a majority vote of the students voting at a regularly scheduled student election.” (Regent Policy, Section 12-B: Student Fees, Sub-Section C in the UCSU Constitution.)
The election would require quite a few votes.
“If this fee would have gone to students through Legislative Council, 25 percent of all students would have been needed for the vote, and then the majority would be needed of that,” Biehle said.
The history of this revision stems from a 2004 capital construction fee levied to grandfather a $400 annual student fee, lasting 20 years, to replenish the lack of state funding available for building projects such as the Wolf Law Building, Colbert Business Building, the ATLAS Building and a new visual arts building currently under construction.
“Eventually, this went to a Board of Regents member, Tom Lucero, and the policy change resulted in a student body vote for long-term fees,” Biehle said. “He didn’t like the decision and thought students should not be paying for student buildings on campus, especially academic.”
While Biehle agrees with Lucero, he also said the student government and students should determine how the fee should be voted.
“I agree with the regents because in some cases, some students don’t even walk into, let alone use, buildings that their money is paying for,” said Taylor Coughlin, a sophomore pre-journalism and mass communication major. “It is unfair, and I think it’s good the students recognize it. It is a very valid issue and I’m impressed the regents are recognizing that.”
The policy change is still early in the conversation in staging the developing language and must go through an extensive review process before reaching the ballot in the spring elections, Farivar said.
If the policy does not pass, the alternatives for construction funding are few and far between, McConnellogue said.
“States have no funding,” McConnellogue said. “Bonding is not good in the current market and private fundraising is hard to do.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Christine Larsen at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org.