It happens with such frequency that it almost seems un-newsworthy, but the university’s Board of Trustees is at it again. It met last week to increase two existing student fees and to establish yet another.
The trustees voted unanimously to increase the Capital Improvement Trust Fund fee to $8.76 per credit hour and the Orientation fee to $50 for incoming freshmen and transfer students.
The former will fund the continued renovation of the library; the latter will finance a pay-raise for Orientation Team employees.
The Board also instituted a new $10-per-semester Education Planning fee to upgrade the student advising system in hopes of improving graduation rates.
“What’s the big deal?” you ask. Well, students often end up coughing up big bucks at the start of each semester because of the plethora of charges UCF tags onto tuition. Some even face a fee just to pay their fees.
To put it into perspective, Florida-residents spend approximately $2,500 on tuition for a full-time course load for two semesters, but after factoring in student fees, that amount doubles to nearly $5,000, and the grand total for non-Florida residents is almost quadruple that number.
With added expenses like overpriced textbooks, hefty rent and rising food costs, it’s no wonder only 35 percent of UCF students admitted in the 2007-2008 academic year graduated within four years and less than 63 percent of students admitted in the 2005-2006 academic year graduated after six years. The numbers don’t lie: higher collegiate costs lead to more seniors taking victory laps.
In my five and a half years as a Knight, I’ve watched the annual cost of my tuition and fees grow by more than $2,000, yet parking on campus remains inadequate, class sizes continue to swell and the wait-time at the SGA Computer Lab seldom fails to frustrate. I’ve been paying more for less and I’m fed up with it.
UCF’s total debt is around $520 million. Adding fuel to the fiscal fire, the university suffered $52 million in state budget cuts for this academic year.
When times are tough, sacrifices must be made, and few better understand the practice of prudence than college students.
It’s an irrational rationale for UCF officials to expect the student body to pick up the tab every time administrators dream up a new project the university can’t afford to fund.
The next time UCF lacks the financial flexibility to pay for building renovations, increases to employee compensation and system upgrades, I offer this radical proposition: Live within thy means.
Instead of casting the monetary burden of UCF’s growing pains unto the student body, the university must make do just as students have done amid perpetual hikes in tuition and fees in this lackluster economy.
Though these may well be worthy causes, UCF must foot the bill for such costly investments because students are only granted four years of access to the facilities and services for which they pay to build and maintain. I encourage administrators to spend UCF’s treasure more intelligently so they needn’t spend more of mine.
There is no mention of greed in the UCF Creed, but the behavior of the university’s leadership of late suggests that perhaps this dogmatic document is due for an amendment.
In November, the Board approved a generous $188,740 bonus and a $26,500-a-year raise for President John C. Hitt, inflating his annual salary to a lofty $490,000 — $90,000 more than President Barack Obama earns each year.
Trustees also approved $260,147 in bonuses for other administrators including Provost Terry Hickey, who retired more than two years ago.
Though the pay raise and bonuses were paid for by private donations, God forbid those funds be spent on Christmas bonuses for deserving custodians or perhaps even scholarships. After all, this is a university.
The next time the Board meets to increase student fees or implement entirely new ones, trustees should consider the following litmus test: “Is the proposed project so crucial to the institution’s enhancement that President Hitt would willingly take a salary cut to help finance it?” If the answer is no, then so should be their vote.
Though only 12 individuals comprise the Board of Trustees, the consequences of their actions reverberate throughout the Knight Nation, directly impacting the lives and personal finances of UCF’s 70,500 students and staff members.
In spite of this, Student Government Association President Cortez Whatley serves as the Board’s sole student voice. Though Whatley courageously voted against escalating President Hitt’s income in November, he makes no apologies for having championed tuition increases over the summer.
As long as we have a student body president advocating for students to pay more in Millican Hall, SGA has no business spending $56,500 worth of students’ money on lobbying firm GrayRobinson. If our tuition continues to rise, our money must be spent elsewhere.
Many students at the nation’s second largest university feel like little more than a number. They yearn for a stronger student presence on the Board of Trustees, or at the very least, a more direct line of communication with it prior to votes on tuition and fee increases; an SGA email blast and Facebook post soliciting student feedback just days before a vote is insufficient.
For it is students who must pay up, future tuition and fee increases ought to require a vote of confidence from the student body through myUCF prior to implementation. Moreover, such increases must be matched by a proportionate boost in scholarships.
Almost five decades ago, President Charles N. Millican made “Reach for the stars” UCF’s motto to inspire students’ aspirations, not the skyrocketing cost of their tuition and fees. Students must never forget that just as a restaurant cannot function without the favor of its patrons, UCF is nothing without its students. We can either accept things the way they are or take a stand and demand that we deserve better.