MU student government votes to change student fee rules

Thursday, October 2, 2008 | 6:51 p.m. CDT; updated 5:48 p.m. CST, Friday, December 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — It used to be that students would vote on MU spending projects but never see the cost of their decisions in their student fees.

But with a unanimous vote by the Missouri Students Association on Wednesday, the vote-now, pay-later system that creates a lag between when projects are approved and when fees increase to pay for them may be no more.

The new system would phase in new or increased student fees during the fiscal year following a project's approval. The change stems from the 2001 approval of the student fee that funded the renovation and expansion of the MU Student Recreation Complex.

Of 4,141 students who voted on the rec complex referendum, 65 percent approved the project. But it mandated that student fee increases for funding the $50 million project — a maximum of $75 per semester — wouldn't take effect until 2004, when most of the students who had approved it would be gone.

"To have students vote on something for which they won't pay a dime — that's just not a good idea," said MSA Speaker Jonathan Mays.

The change also stems from the 2005 approval of a new student center fee to renovate and expand Brady Commons, which goes into effect next semester.

It's this fee increase — $35 per semester — that doesn't sit well with Josh Travis, an MU freshman and MSA senator. He said the gap between when student fee increases are approved and when they are implemented doesn't seem right.

"Student fees are something a lot of us aren't really informed about," he said. "(This change in policy) promotes students to be more responsible and seriously consider if this is something we want because we're going to have to pay part of it."

With the new system, a student body that approves a construction or renovation project would begin paying at least 25 percent of the fee beginning the following fiscal year.

The change would take place immediately, beginning with any new student fees approved by the student body, Mays said. Current student fees wouldn't be affected.

The legislation still faces a vote in the Graduate Professional Council, which is expected to take place Tuesday. Mays said it is likely to pass.

Mays said the change in policy has become a necessity over the past few years as student fees have shifted toward funding facilities such as the new student center, which is expected to be complete by January 2011.

"Combine that with the mentality that you don't pay for what you can't use, and it's a recipe for poor decision making," Mays said.

The association also voted Wednesday to require a three-fifths majority vote for the passage of proposals that involve adding or increasing student fees.

"A higher standard than a simple majority of voting students should be required for new student fees to be assessed," Mays wrote when drafting the legislation.

The three-fifths requirement will be submitted to the student body for a vote Nov. 10 through 12.

Both changes to student fee policy would only apply to MU, but Mays said he would like to talk to representatives from the other University of Missouri System campuses to develop a similar approach to similar problems.

A full-time undergraduate at MU currently pays $348.77 in student fees, excluding a per-credit-hour technology fee and department-specific course fees.

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