Fee hikes must serve, not exploit, students
During spring break, while students were looking to relax without breaking the bank, when not a single student was in the room, regents met and suggested raising student fees $80 to fund Athletics and libraries.
Students pay about $500 in fees for student services and facilities on campus; this is on top of the tuition that covers professors and classroom costs. With a 3 percent increase in tuition threatening to raise student costs $300, we have to ask: What new services will libraries and Athletics provide students for any fee increase?
Students already pay $81.75 for the cost of providing free student tickets to athletic games. That Athletics deserves an additional $40 per student is outrageous. The high cost of coaching has turned revenue-generating sports into debt-generating sports. The athletics program is more than $1 million in the red. Students cannot afford to waste student fees on backfilling bad hiring decisions. I have not heard any arguments from Athletics that an increase in fees will provide students a single additional service.
Nor should additional student fees support the libraries. The Student Fee Review Board already recommended a fee increase to support a 24-hour library. However, the libraries also asked students to foot the bill for journal subscriptions.
Electronic journals are essential to student education and university research. Academic costs should be covered by research dollars or Instruction & General funding (tuition or state appropriations), not a $40 increase in student fees. Libraries are central to UNM’s mission, but students deserve to know that libraries need to be funded through means other than student fees.
I am proud of the way that UNM has come to include students in decision making. Students make initial fee recommendations through the SFRB, and then participate as equals in the administrative Strategic Budget Leadership Team, which makes fee recommendations to the president.
However, with regard to the $80 fee increase suggested by the regents, students have had no input and have not had the opportunity to ask how they will see any benefit from such an increase. The regents should be aware that students have been crystal clear each time they sat at the table: An increase in student fees to Athletics is unacceptable. If Athletics needs more funding, regents should find those dollars somewhere other than student pockets.
Ultimately, the SFRB knows how cash-strapped students are; therefore, the board recommended a responsible and modest $16.71 increase in fees for student initiatives. An additional $80 increase is an unjustified, arbitrary and irresponsible expenditure of student money.