President Susan Herbst is creating a committee of staff, faculty, and students who will undertake a comprehensive review of student fees at UConn and recommend potential changes to those fees and the University’s overall fee structure.
Herbst announced the committee’s formation during Wednesday’s UConn Board of Trustees meeting, and she plans to appoint its members within coming weeks. Scott Jordan, UConn’s chief financial officer and executive vice president for administration, will serve as chairman of the group.
Trustees review UConn’s undergraduate and graduate student fees each year. Those fees pay for non-academic programs that range from student health services to transportation, room and board, technology infrastructure, student government, and other programs.
The new committee will review issues such as ways to simplify the fee structure, whether some services funded by a fee should be funded another way, if the University applies the fees consistently, and whether any fees should be eliminated, created, or combined.
UConn has held student fees steady for the last three years, despite reductions in state appropriations and increased operating costs.
“Fees, of course, are not all created at once. They are implemented over the years for many different reasons. Because of that, a patchwork of fees develops – all dating to different decades and eras, and many are arrived at through different processes,” Herbst said Wednesday, adding that is very common at universities nationwide.
“Knowing that, it is wise for institutions to press ‘pause’ from time to time to assess their fees and fee structure, from top to bottom,” she added. “After reviewing all of the fees charged by UConn and the purpose of each, I have decided that now is the right time for that review.”
The group will return its recommendations to Herbst next year, and she will return to the Board of Trustees in fall 2017 with proposals based on their findings.
The board on Wednesday also approved adjustments for some fees tied to specific services, and for particular programs such as the Executive MBA Program and eCampus to cover their costs. They will begin in fall 2017.
The changes include a small increase in the transit fee to allow full-time UConn students to use all public buses in the state for free under the state’s UPass program. However, that fee will only be charged if the program is ready as of fall 2017 and the state has fully funded its portion.
UConn also is creating a $350 fee per semester for international students to cover UConn’s costs of administering visa compliance through the Office of Global Affairs and other services for those students. It will be charged to all students who hold J-1 and F-1 visas.
Modest adjustments were also approved Wednesday in room and board fees to cover the costs to operate UConn’s residence halls and dining program at Storrs, and rates for the new student housing at UConn Stamford have been added to the fee schedule.
UConn remains an excellent value among its peers and competitors, and adheres to a philosophy in which it increases fees only when absolutely necessary, Jordan told trustees on Wednesday.
The fee proposals were presented and discussed in depth at two Town Hall meetings on Nov. 16, and a video of the event and the presentation are available online.
The new room and board fee adjustments go into effect in fall 2017 for that academic year and those beginning in fall 2018 and fall 2019. The three-year plan was adopted to give more predictability to students, their families, and the University in planning their finances.
At the same time, the University will eliminate the $50 mandatory escrow deposit required of students and would credit any previously paid deposits to the students’ accounts; and will continue to cover students under its malpractice insurance, but without the previous fee that ranged up to $9 per individual.
UConn did not propose or adopt increases Wednesday in the Student Activity Fee, which covers student government, student-run campus media, and Student Union programs; or the General University Fee (GUF), which finances Student Health Services, recreation programs, and a variety of other services.