SGA passes bill to increase student fee cap

The Student Government Association passed a bill to increase the student fee cap in an SGA meeting held Sept. 17 in the SGA senate chambers.

University Bill 51004, authored by Bauer College of Business Senators Sunil Motwani and Pooja Magadi raises the student fee cap to $300 from $250. It’s important to note that the bill did not increase student fees, but increased the amount of student fees that UH is permitted to require.

Speaker of the Senate Shaun Smith said the fees go into student-fee organizations such as The Cougar, SGA, CoogRadio, Student Video Network, Frontier Fiesta and more.

Last year, the Student Fee Advisory Committee voted to increase student fees by $10 every year to match inflation and student enrollment increases, “predominately to support the Student Programming Board to increase the programming capacity to cater to the larger student body,” Smith said.

“The verbiage of the bill does state increase the cap from $250 to $300, which does not mean increasing student fees to $50, but raising the cap in which the fees can be increase until another election or so,” Smith said.

The bill increased the cap to $300, but limits an annual fee increase to five percent, or $12 to $15 every year. If SFAC, the Board of Regents or President and Chancellor Renu Khator wants to increase student fees, they will have to ask the students or SGA for them to approve. SGA is working to address the needs of both the students and the administration.

“(We’re working) predominately student affairs, because that is the division that handles all the fee-funded organizations and they’re more privy to how their budgets are leaned or too excessive in certain parts,” Smith said.

“It essentially gives you room to move within that cap,” Motwani said. “Once you reach the cap, you cannot raise student fees anymore.”

Smith adds that having it tethered to a percentage is dangerous because once they get to a certain number, they would be increasing it by a large amount.

For perspective, Texas A&M University’s annual student fees are an estimated $1,300, considerably higher than UH’s annual student fee of $300. In addition, they have various fees billed to the students that often go undetected by the student body.

“In UH, we’ve always been very transparent with our student fees, we’ve always indicated where that money was going every year, and we don’t hide it or bundle it up on PeopleSoft,” Smith said. “We see what fees are given to individual students. A&M and UT, they don’t necessarily do that; they bundle it all together and you can’t see what’s going on unless you dig and research it.”

Bauer College of Business Sen. Pooja Magadi discusses UB51004 with the legislation | Justin Tijerna / The Cougar

Bauer College of Business Sen. Pooja Magadi discusses UB51004 with the senate. | Justin Tijerina / The Cougar

“The big spikes that you’ve actually seen were in 2001 when they added the health center fee, which (added) $20 plus an additional $10 for whatever student services fee that were needed,” Motwani said. “Back in 2012, with the stadium fee, which was $45, and another five dollars for student services –most of the other fluctuations you see are very minor.”

Some may question the raise in the cap, especially considering UH is currently experiencing its highest enrollment in its history. Magadi said although there are more students, that does not mean the University is getting more money.

“With growth, we need proportional funding to support that growth,” Magadi said. “So the enrollment doesn’t really have too much to do with how much the fees are or how much money the University is making because the student fees that that student pays go back to support them. Even though the University is growing, the money that we have to operate with needs to be allow to grow if necessary to support the University overall.”

Magadi stressed again that despite the small student fee cap increase, student fees itself have not increased.

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SGA passes bill to increase student fee cap” was originally posted on The Daily Cougar

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