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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Board postpones student fee deliberations

sfrb
By Isabel Hees / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Left to right: Angelica Gallegos, Jaymie Roybal and Japji Hundal deliberate student fee allocation recommendations. Their recommendations will be submitted to UNM President David Schmidly for approval.

Despite aims to decrease the amount students pay in fees next year, the Student Fee Review Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to set the minimum fee amount for next year to the same as it is this year.

The board unanimously agreed to increase fees from the $460 agreed upon at the outset of the board’s meetings in January to $486.49, the same amount as this year.

The board’s final recommendation will likely be a higher dollar amount at the end of its deliberations.

The board was unable to agree on how to allocate student fees by the end of Wednesday night’s meeting and adjourned at 10:30 p.m, after four hours of debate.

The board plans to reconvene Monday to finish hashing out which student organizations get what amounts.

SFRB Vice Chair and ASUNM President Jaymie Roybal said the original dollar amount was not sufficient to fund all of the organizations that support students on campus.

“I personally found it hard to make a (budget) for $460,” she said. “I couldn’t make recommendations for all the groups without cutting, and I think a lot of on-campus groups do a lot of good.”
SFRB Chair and GPSA President Katie Richardson cautioned the board to consider the cost to students before raising fees. She said the board has spent 25 hours listening to hearings from organizations that requested funding, which might cloud the board’s judgment on what amount is appropriate to charge students in fees.

“What we haven’t spent is 25 hours over the last month considering student pocketbooks,” she said.

Despite Richardson’s concerns, the board voted unanimously to raise the fee amount.

Board member and ASUNM Chief of Staff Cassie Thompson said SFRB has become a last resort for funding student services after state and University sources are exhausted.

“We had talked about looking for other ways that these groups might be funded other than on the backs of students, but if we don’t fund these groups and assume (the University or the state will fund them), I think we are taking a step backward before we are taking a step forward,” she said.

Thompson said students want more services and lower fees at the same time, which is impossible.

“Students (complain) about cut hours at the libraries, or at Johnson, or printing, but they complain student fees are too high,” she said. “The question is, ‘What is more important, students paying a little more fees, or having a little more money in their pocketbook to pay the rent?’”

The board made non-binding allocations for 10 of the 27 student organizations for next year, funding every group for the full amount requested.

Most of the organizations reviewed were organizations requesting small amounts of funding. If the group continues to fund organizations at the full amount, student fees could rise to as much as $715 per student.

But the board members agreed keeping student fees as low as possible was a priority.

“When it came to actually putting numbers, I think something more reasonable is closer to $500, but … we do need to keep in mind students are paying (for this),” said Dylan Hoffman, board member and ASUNM Chief Justice.

The group plans to vote on funding for each organization twice before deciding its final recommendation: once to determine an ideal amount of funding, and a second time to bring total student fees down by deciding which organizations will take a cut.

The board debated on how much to fund organizations including the UNM Children’s Campus, which provides day care and family support services to students with children.

Hoffman argued the organization does not serve as many students as some of the others on the list, as not every student at UNM has children.

“I want to fund this organization, but I’m not sure $15 is an appropriate amount, given that it serves a smaller population,” he said. “There may be other organizations that serve more students.”
Board member and GPSA Chief of Staff Japji Hundal argued in favor of funding the organization for the full amount.

“I know for sure that if this parent gets educated, they will educate their children,” he said. “In serving on this board, I’m not just looking at the present, I’m looking at the future.”
Roughly 42 percent of students on campus are responsible for dependents, according to the board. The Children’s Campus was tentatively funded for the full amount.

Richardson proposed funding the Center for Academic Program Support (CAPS) an additional $6.42 more than its original request, contingent upon a matching amount from the University. Richardson cited a letter from the organization, which said CAPS could serve additional students if given additional funding.

In the letter, CAPS representatives said student demand was high, but that the current number of tutoring hours is not sufficient to meet the demand. Students who participate in tutoring from CAPS do significantly better in their college careers, according to the board discussion.

Andrew Cullen, associate vice president for the Budget Office, said requesting matching funding from the University would help provide an avenue for more state funding. The state’s new higher education funding formula, which is currently under debate in the Legislature, funds schools based on student performance, and looks at graduation and retention rates rather than the number of students enrolled.

“I think by doing what Katie (Richardson) is proposing, you are acknowledging the potential that substantial dollars could come through the funding formula and could quadruple the funding coming into UNM.”

But Roybal argued that funding an organization above the amount requested is outside of the SFRB’s job description.

“I’m all for expanding tutoring services, but we should not make the decisions for organizations,” she said. “They did not request $15 in fees. I would be very uncomfortable doing that and I don’t think there is any other organization on this list that I would double their funding.”

The motion to fund CAPS an additional $6.42 failed, but the board tentatively recommended the organization be funded the full requested amount of $9.63 per student.

The board agreed that ethnic centers, KUNM, and Student Health and Counseling all contributed a great deal to student success, and tentatively recommended funding the organizations the full amount that each requested without much debate.

The group adjourned and will meet Monday to finish the allocation process. The averages will be given to the President’s Strategic Budget Leadership Team by Feb. 15. Official allocations will be released March 1.

SFRB deliberations, round two
Monday, 6:30 p.m.
SUB Cherry/Silver Room