As students and their families continue feeling the effects of the economic downturn, students are becoming increasingly aware of every cent of the fees they pay to Miami University.
The $861 charge for general fees that show up on students’ e-bills each semester is higher than the general fees at many other Ohio colleges including Ohio University, the University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green State University and Ohio State University.
Oxford campus general fees are almost five times the amount that students at Miami’s Hamilton and Middletown campuses pay.
Students are asking where all that money is going and whether it is being used wisely.
“I didn’t know until recently where my fees are used,” said senior Sarah McFarland, an exercise science and dietetics major.
McFarland, who preferred not to use her real name, said paying general fees makes a big difference as she works to pay for rent, utilities, phone, gas and food.
“It is hard to balance work and school,” McFarland said. “Sleep and my social life tend to be the aspects of my life that suffer.”
McFarland sometimes spends more time at her dining hall job than in class.
“Some weeks I only work 10 hours, but if the shifts are available, which I need and love, I will work 20 to 30 hours,” McFarland said.
As a student manager, McFarland said she makes about $8.85 per hour. At this rate, it would take her about 97 hours to pay just one semester of general fees at Miami.
All students pay $37.70 for the basic operations of Student Health Services (SHS) whether or not they use the facility. A total fund of $1,216,800 per year goes to SHS. Additionally, students pay $53 per year for the operations of the Shriver Center.
The portion of the general fee designated as “student facilities CR & R,” totaling $250,000 per year, goes toward repairs, renewal and replacement, explained David Creamer, vice president of finance and business services.
A wide variety of capital projects including repairs and renovations are funded with this money. During the past year, some of the projects have included the East quad roads and walks upgrades near the new Farmer School of Business building, renovations in Pearson Hall, and exterior painting of Flower, Emerson and Dodds halls, according to a capital projects report from the physical facilities department. Students pay $7.50 per semester for these repairs and replacements.
Miami students pay more than $100 each year for contingencies. This money, Creamer said is set aside for unexpected expenses including major repairs that were not planned in advance, cost overruns in various departments and shortages due to low enrollment or other factors.
“It’s kind of like a safety net,” Creamer said.
The student affairs portion of the fund supports student media including The Miami Student newspaper, WMSR, Miami Quarterly (MQ), Inklings literary magazine and Up fashion magazine. This accounts for $15 per semester that each student pays in fees.
A $7.26 per semester portion of the general fees, totaling $234,200 each year, is designated for lecturers and artists brought in by the university. This money helps defray or eliminate ticket costs. Some lectures and concerts are sponsored by various departments and groups and do not use this fee money.
The student activities fund of $427,500 per year supports a variety of groups and activities, said Katie Wilson, senior director for student engagement. This includes the newspaper readership program, cheerleaders, the debate team, special events, Student Initiative Fund, Miami Special Events Fund, Mock Trial and the Graduate Student Association.
Students pay $13.24 per semester for this fund.
All students at Miami also pay nearly $30 per semester toward student organizations. This fee money makes up approximately $951,500 per year; an amount allocated to various organizations by Associated Student Government’s funding committee.
The committee is made up of ASG’s vice president of student organizations, treasurer and adviser along with several senators.
The committee has about 14 to 15 people, said Andrew Ferguson, vice president of student organizations.
Ferguson said while the fund has remained constant for the past three years, ASG hopes to increase the funding for student organizations in the future because of an increase in the number of requests the committee receives.
“Any student organization can apply for funding,” Ferguson said.
Organizations complete an online application for one of three annual funding cycles. Then they have a short hearing in which the committee determines whether to approve funding.
“We don’t look at the amount of money we have while we are giving it out,” Ferguson said.
Instead, the committee grants worthy requests, looks at the total and then cuts back all organizations an equal amount if needed.
There are two subcommittees within the funding committee. These are the audit committee and the debt relief committee.
The audit subcommittee performs audits on student organizations. The debt relief subcommittee oversees the payback of debt.
“At the beginning of last year we assumed all debt of student organizations,” Ferguson said. Now, student organizations are not allowed to get any further into debt and they are in debt to ASG instead of to the university.
Four years ago, Ferguson said, “the vice president of student organizations was impeached for coercing the committee into funding $50,000 for a fashion show.”
It was later found the vice president was involved in the student organization that held the show.
“I am the third vice president since then,” Ferguson said. “We have revamped the entire process.”
Three years ago, said Ferguson, the caps were initiated to prevent this type of problem from reoccurring. Two years ago, current student body president Jonathan McNabb created the funding portion of the ASG Web site, which details the funding process and regulations.
Now, Ferguson said he is working hard to allocate money fairly and properly.
“We take it very seriously,” he said.
Ferguson thinks students should be willing to pay the $60 per year to benefit student organizations because most students are involved with at least one organization or at least attend events held by organizations.
He said all students benefit from organizations that need these funds to operate and he feels the general fee is a good source ofthat funding.
“I don’t know where else that could come from,” Ferguson said.