Students expressed concern about a possible raise in student fees at an open forum Friday, saying that fees have already risen rapidly and that students should not have to bear any more of the financial responsibility.
Portland State must create and implement a policy that will add a substantial surcharge to varying auxiliary enterprises’ budgets, including student groups and athletics. The surcharge would be for indirect costs, which include unbudgeted expenses such as building maintenance and human resource pay.
The policy could raise student fees next year by as much as 12 percent, budget analyst and chair of the indirect costs committee Susan Dodd said. The indirect costs could also cut student group budgets by 12 percent across the board, which could also cause the student fee to rise.
”They are trying to balance the disinvestment of higher education on the backs of students,” said Jesse Bufton, the student body vice president. “You can only do that so many times and I think we’ve passed that point.”
The hour-long forum, promoted by student government, was held to let students bring concerns to a committee of administrators, staff members, and student representatives over the new Oregon University System (OUS) indirect costs policy.
Student Body President Courtney Morse spoke to the group of about 30 students and a few administrators. About half of the audience was members of student government.
Morse said it was her goal to keep the student fee as low as possible regardless of the university’s budget restraints. Dean of Students Wendy Endress and a few members of the audience echoed her sentiments. Morse said that the committee should make the decision to only charge groups .01 percent, as the OUS’s only mandate is that the percentage not be zero percent, a statement that was met by applause from most of the audience.
Dodd said it is the plan of her committee to hear from every department on campus before they implement a policy and present their argument to the OUS.
Many of the students who spoke requested that the committee give them a timeline for when the policy will be implemented. Dodd said she could not pinpoint a time but hopes it will be done a few months after Winter term begins. The latest the policy could be implemented is July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
”It really scares us to have our budget cut,” Madeline Kaufman of the Student Opera at PSU said. “I don’t know where that money would come from.”
Dodd asked students to go out and do their own research about indirect costs and the fees associated with them and bring their findings to the committee. She also said that students can get creative with accounting to find ways around the indirect costs, but could not speculate on what that would mean.
Three years ago, then-vice president of Finance and Administration Jay Kenton proposed a 2 percent surcharge on student groups and athletics, but the idea was dismissed after much student outcry.
”We are very much on your side,” Dodd said at the end of the forum. “We’re right in this with you.” She suggested that the students start lobbying their state legislature.
”That’s what we are already doing,” said Patrick Beisell, ASPSU state affairs director.
After the forum, Morse said she felt the committee got a good sense of student concerns.
”Overall, it was a good philosophical debate,” Morse said.