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ECU Trustees weigh fee increases

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East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees will decide if a recommendation to increase athletics fees, which has stirred controversy among students and alumni, will be approved during its two-day session that begins today.

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 1, 2018

East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees will decide if a recommendation to increase athletics fees, which has stirred controversy among students and alumni, will be approved during its two-day session that begins today.

The board’s finance and facilities affair committee will review the request today and the full board will vote on the proposal on Friday.

Chancellor Cecil Staton is recommending the Board of Trustees adopt an athletics fee increase of $50, an $8 fee increase for the education and technology and an $8 hike for student center operations.

The three are mandatory fees that must be paid by all full-time ECU students, both undergraduate and graduate.

The three fee increases total $66, according to a summary Sara Thorndike, ECU vice chancellor for Administration and Finance, prepared for the Board of Trustees’ finance and facilities affairs committee. However, the $15 debt service fee for the student recreation center that students have paid will be eliminated in fall 2019 so the net increase will be $51, the summary said.

Increasing the athletics fee became a controversial topic on campus earlier this month when the Campus Tuition and Fees Committee recommended raising it by $75. It was not a unanimous recommendation; graduate student representative Tyler Beasley voted no.

“Graduate students in general want them to be aware there’s resistance to the proposal,” Beasley said. If the $75 increase goes through, Beasley said it will send a message that administrators and trustees are not listening to the needs or opinions of graduate students.

Staton is suggesting the $50 increase because the Student Government Association recommended the amount, Thorndike, said.

It is projected the $50 bump in the athletics fee will raise an additional $1.1 million in revenue to offset the athletic program’s shortfall, which was slightly more than $3 million when the 2017-18 fiscal year ended on June 30. The shortfall is expected to reach $4 million when the current fiscal year ends.

Beasley said one reason graduate students are upset by the athletics fee increase is because there was initially little discussion about a compromise, unlike what happened with the proposed increases for education and technology and student center operations.

Beasley said both divisions initially requested a $25 increase which the committee decided should be reduced to $8.

“That conversion didn’t take long, everyone agreed to take $8,” Beasley said. The conversation about the athletics fee increase was different.

Committee members asked why the $75 increase was recommended and if smaller increases would be acceptable.

“I never completely understood where the number $75 came from,” Beasley said. “We were basically told there was a very large deficit in the athletics department and because of the large deficit and the inability to use state funds to help offset the deficit there was only one option left, increase athletic fees for students.”

When a public forum on the proposed increases was held on Oct. 23, Beasley said a graduate student asked how the administration would handle the deficit if the trustees didn’t increase the fee. An administrator said they would figure it out.

“That’s kind of the underlying question, if there is another way — which clearly there is another way, why else would they say they would somehow figure it out — why is this the route they are taking and why is this the route that we’re being told is the only one that exists,” Beasley said.

Beasley, who is scheduled to graduate in December with a master’s degree in sociology, said graduate students have been vocal in their opposition because their course work and jobs give them little time to partake in athletics programming. While most graduate students earn a stipend working in their departments, it’s not a lot of money, he said.

“For people who aren’t financially established in the world, and that includes both students and graduate students, $75 does make a big difference,” he said. “Seventy-five dollars is paying a phone bill or an insurance bill or putting that money towards a month of rent.”

“Asking them to take out an extra $75 to pay this when they are doing so much work and getting so little money, it’s problematic and kind of insulting,” he said.

While Staton is recommending a $50 increase, Beasley worries that the trustees will ignore that recommendation and approve the athletics department request for $75.

Other increases being considered for the 2019-20 school year include:

■ $1,000 increase in the School of Dental Medicine tuition. The increase should generate $190,665 which will fund an additional faculty position.

■ Reducing the undergraduate application to $60 from $75.

■ Adding a $35 readmission fee.

■ $233 annual increase in the fee for dental electronic textbooks.

■ $100 increase per meal plan.

■ 2 percent parking fee increase which will range from $1 to $11 annually.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

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