What’s that charge? Student fees and their uses explained

If you are currently a full time undergraduate MSU student then you have paid your bills for the semester, including a multitude of fees in addition to tuition. Do you ever wonder where these fees go? We interviewed several department heads who receive funding from student fees to get an inside glimpse into the services that all those extra charges provide.

 

Health and Dental Fee

Student Health Service (SHS) is funded in part by Health and Dental Fees. Costing full-time students a total of $194 per semester, these fees are important to continuing the vital services that the SHS provides for students. Jim Mitchell, director of SHS, is responsible for managing the program budget. While the budget is approved by the Board of Regents like all university expenditures, Mitchell says a large student voice goes into deciding on the SHS budget.

The budget, which is revamped every two years to accommodate changing needs, is first drafted by the Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) which MSU students sit on. This gives students a say in the expenditure of fees, as well as the cost of the fees themselves. Advising on budgeting is not the only job of the SHAC, “[SHAC] advises the health service on all kinds of issues … it’s the student perspective on health services” Mitchell said.

The most common use of SHS services are visits to the office for basic medical attention, but there are many other services available to students. Women’s health services, nutrition advice, a travel clinic, a medical laboratory, x-rays and orthopedic evaluations are among the many services students have at their disposal. “People are surprised by the breadth of services we have,” Mitchell said, encouraging students to utilize the useful services available through SHS.

 

ASMSU Fee

Associated Students of Montana State University (ASMSU) solely receives funding from student fees. These fees include the activity fee, Streamline Bus fee and student organization fee, and the student press free, which helps funds the paper you are reading, among others. All of these fees are packaged together under the ASMSU fee by the Office of Financial Services.

The activity fee is managed by the ASMSU governing body, the fees are used for day-to-day expenses, as well as numerous campus services available to students. Katrina Wilhelm, ASMSU business manager, is responsible for aiding the rest of the student government in allocating funds for the year during budgeting time. “We definitely make sure that student fees are being spent responsibly,” Wilhelm said of the budgeting process within ASMSU. When creating the budget, the Finance Board, composed of ASMSU senators, makes a plan based on recommendations from the President and Vice President of ASMSU, and then sends the budget to the senate for approval.

These funds are put to use in the MSU community. Services such as the Late Night Streamline Bus, ASMSU Outdoor Recreation program, Campus Entertainment, and ASMSU Day Care, that are directly used by students, are paid for with these fees as well as administration costs for the ASMSU office. The operational costs of the office and the payroll of employees in the organization’s legal team are included in these administration costs. Students are encouraged to utilize all of these services to the greatest extent possible, especially those of which they might not be aware. Wilhelm said, “People don’t realize the amount of work that Campus Entertainment puts into all of the concerts and comedy shows on campus.” Having already paid for these often free events with the ASMSU fee, students are encouraged to attend and enjoy the shows available to them.

 

Information Technology Center Fee

“There are a variety of services that the ITC offers to students,” Chief Information Officer Jerry Sheehan said when discussing the Information Technology Center (ITC) fee. MSU students are required to pay a $41 fee to support the campus ITC, which provides not only the campus network, but also a number of other services to students, such as the ITC help desk, campus phones, and the “smart classes” to which many students have grown accustomed. All funding provided by this fee is managed by the ITC Capital Plan.

The Bozeman Information Technology Council has power over the ITC Capital Plan, controlling the $1.2 million the ITC fee generates per year. The council has student members, which gives an inside perspective to the decisions that the council makes regarding the allocation of funds. As a rule, the services that are needed for instruction and research to be done have priority when deciding where fee revenue will be spent. However, recent additions to the school’s network, such as the network core upgrades that increase internet speed and connectivity across campus have been financed by the student fees paid to the ITC.

The basic network and infrastructure needs listed above are not all that the ITC does for students; the ITC also provides secure storage for students, discounted or free software licensing, discounts on new computer purchases, and help with both hardware and software on student computers. Sheehan wants to make sure that his department can inform students of services that they might not be aware exist. “We’re working to improve the communication of our services globally,” he remarked.

 

Computer and Equipment Fees

In addition to the ITC fee, students might notice that there is also an equipment fee and a computer fee that students must pay each semester. The combined $85.80 charge provides $2.4 million of capital per year for the university, which pays for the specialized equipment that many students require in their programs, and computers for student use in campus computer labs. This fee is not connected to the ITC, but it does play a part in the network infrastructure at MSU because these fees provide student-level access to computers and equipment to which students would otherwise not have access.

 

Athletic Fee

Full time MSU students pay a $75.75 fee to support the operations of Bobcat Athletics. This athletic fee is added to the revenue pool for the athletic department, and then allocated to individual sports based on the number of athletes in a given sport. Thijs Goossens, associate athletic director for business operations, elaborated on the allocation of these fees. “The fees are used more for the upkeep of facilities and other operational expenses we have,” he said. Students are not funding student athletes’ scholarships; the payout for room and board as well as tuition for collegiate athletes at MSU is a different item on the budget than the costs covered by the athletic fee. The athletic fee also is not allocated to pay for debt on stadiums and sports facilities, these cost having been covered already by ticket revenue generated by sporting events.

While many students do know that they pay an athletic fee, many do not know how they can best take advantage of the activities this fee supports. “The things we do for game day operations benefit the students,” Goossens said of the many activities that the athletic department puts on for collegiate sporting events. Student and buddy passes for these events, prize giveaways and game day time out events all are funded by the athletic fee, and all students are welcomed and encouraged to utilize these programs.

 

Building and Student Facility Enhancement Project Fees

One of the major building fees paid by MSU students is the Student Facilities Enhancement Project (SFEP). The SFEP fee is used to repay outstanding debt on projects, including the construction of the Procrastinator and Blackbox Theaters, and renovations on the Strand Union Building and Health and Physical Education building. Repairs and maintenance on these facilities are also funded by the SFEP fee. Out of the $89.40 that students pay for the SFEP fee, approximately $55 is used to repay debt, while the remaining funds go to maintenance on the buildings that fall under the SFEP.

Outside of the SFEP fee, there is also the standard building fee. This fee is used for debt repayment, maintenance and operational costs for the remaining buildings on campus, excluding those used by administration. Laura Humberger, the associate vice president of financial services, manages both of these accounts, but all expenditures from fees greater than $200,000 are discussed with students beforehand, giving representation to the student body that utilizes the fruits of these larger projects.