Field house proposal stirs discussion of segregated fees

Nick Bezier, Staff Reporter

The recent referendum on the construction of a new field house on campus sparked conversation and debate among students. One of the central points of contention was a yearly segregated fee increase of $132 on the student bill.

Segregated fees are line items on the student bill that are not related to tuition or differential tuition payments or room and board. For example, students pay segregated fees that finance the operation of the childcare center, the REC and Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. UW System fiscal policy breaks segregated fees down into two categories – allocable and non-allocable.

Allocable fees are fees that students have direct control over and set themselves. Non-allocable fees are in the hands of university administration, but administration must consult with students on the use of those funds. To accomplish the student administration of segregated fees, the UW-L Student Senate established the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee, or SUFAC.

“Segregated fees are an important mechanism to fill in the financing for important programs that tuition doesn’t necessarily cover,” said Alissa Yakes, a senator for the College of Business Administration and member of SUFAC.

Just last year, the total segregated fee levy surpassed $1,000 per year. The largest segregated fee is levied for the operation and maintenance of Cartwright Center. That fee is set to increase upon the completion of the new student center building in 2016. The REC Center and Textbook Rental cost students just shy of $90 each. A number of other fees can be found, like an approximately $10 charge that allows students to use the city bus an unlimited amount of times and a $22 fee that pays for the Rec Sports and Intramural programs.

Students work with administration, faculty and staff to help determine appropriate fee levies for the programs.

“We bring all the stakeholders in and try to balance program needs and keeping fees low for students,” noted Yakes.

Segregated fees have not been without controversy. Several UW-Madison students, upset with the use of their segregated fee dollars funding political organizations they disagreed with, filed a lawsuit against the UW System Board of Regents to exempt themselves from paying the fees. The case found its way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that fees could be made mandatory as long as all funding decisions are made on the merits of the request, without bias from the viewpoints of those making the decisions. This doctrine is known as viewpoint neutrality.

While the fact that fees can be made mandatory is no longer contested, segregated fee fairness has again been in the spotlight in recent months. The Associated Students of Madison, the student government association at UW-Madison, has asked the Board of Regents to give students complete control over segregated fees by removing all allocable/non-allocable fee designations.

This concerned James Dirth, chair of the UW-L SUFAC.

“Students without proper budgeting experience making personnel decisions, which are now considered non-allocable decisions, can be a bit dangerous,” he said.

If you are interested in learning more about segregated fees, SUFAC meetings are held in 326 Cartwright on Mondays at 5:30 p.m.

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