The student incidental fee may increase by as much as $6 next fall to $137 per term for full-time students pending a vote by the Student Fee Committee Wednesday, and the fee could increase by as much as $10 the following year.
Students pay the student fee each term, currently $131 for students taking 12 credits or more, which goes to fund over 80 student groups and campus athletics.
Each year, student groups and athletics propose individual budgets to the Student Fee Committee. After a series of hearings and deliberations, the committee determines a funding level for each group and submits a total budget to the student senate. Once a total budget for all groups has been decided, the committee determines the fee amount that is necessary to fund the budget.
The committee approved a 2005-06 budget Feb. 17 that totals $8,171,693, an increase of nearly $1 million over the 2004-05 budget. A majority of the increase will be covered by a projected $600,000 surplus from the 2004-05 student fees, but the remainder will need to be covered by increasing the fee for 2005-06.
The Student Fee Committee voted Feb. 17 to increase the student fee by $4, to $135, but they did not take into account certain increases to the total budget that were accidentally left out of the total budget calculation, according Tracy Earll, the committee chair.
Because of those increases, the committee would have to increase the fee by an additional $2 in order for projected revenue to cover the cost of the current budget, according to Ellen Weeks, financial advisor to the Student Fee Committee.
The fee committee will consider its options at a meeting Wednesday and determine if the additional $2 increase to the student fee is truly necessary to cover projected costs. The committee will not cut funding that has already been agreed upon, according to Earll, but there may be ways to avoid further increasing the fee.
The necessary student fee to cover the fee committee budget is determined in part by Portland State enrollment growth projections provided by the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. For several years, the growth projections have been lower than the actual amount of enrollment growth. If enrollment growth is higher than the projected 3 percent next year, the current student fee may be enough to cover costs, according to Earll.
In addition, because a surplus from this year is being used to cover part of the student fee budget for next year, the student fee would need to be increased again in 2006 in order to maintain the current student fee budget level. According to current projections, a fee increase of $10 would be necessary to cover the $600,000 shortfall.
Such a steep increase is fairly unlikely, however, according to Earll, who said that factors like conservative enrollment estimates may cause the amount of fee money collected in 2005-06 to be greater than is currently projected. For the past several years, the committee has always ended up with a surplus at the end of the year, Earll said.
Earll said that she does not see this year’s fee increases as significant. Portland State has not increased the student incidental fee since 2002, and currently has the lowest fee of the state universities. At the University of Oregon, the fee is $184.61; at Oregon State, it is $161.