New Union Fee
OSU students weigh in on new Union fee
Published: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Some Ohio State students have voiced concerns about the Student Union Facility Fee, but many say that charging the fee is a necessary and reasonable way to fund the Ohio Union.
The Union fee began at $27 per quarter in spring 2010 and increased to $51 per quarter in autumn 2010, according to OSU Board of Trustees meeting minutes from June 2010.
"Each year thereafter, for the next four years, the fee would increase by $3," according to the board minutes from June 2009, meaning the fee would reach $63 per quarter in autumn 2014.
By 2014, OSU will have converted to semesters, and the fees will be adjusted to have approximately the same yearly effect on students, said Kurt Foriska, assistant director of the Union. However, the exact fee conversion has not yet been determined.
Foriska said the university had three options for implementing the Union fee.
"We could have gone to the full-blown fee the day it opened, or we could have had students start paying as soon as we broke ground," Foriska said. "But since students aren't used to paying this fee, we decided to use a gradient scale."
The actual Union fee is $63 per quarter in fiscal year 2010 dollars; but to reduce the economic effect of the fee on students, the university is not charging students the full $63-per-quarter fee right away, Foriska said.
"These are tough times, and this is an investment," Foriska said. "So what might look like a financial hardship is an investment in students' education and something that's enduring."
Foriska said that having high-quality buildings such as the Union attracts more students to the university, which could ultimately reduce the fee.
"If more students enroll, more students are paying the fee," Foriska said. "The fee would lower, in a way - we wouldn't charge the same fee and keep the extra money."
The board estimated that after 2014, the Union fee would increase at a slower pace of about $1 per year "to keep up with renewal and replacement funding," something Foriska said the old Union failed to do.
Jason Marion, former student representative to the BOT, agreed that a lack of funds for renewal and replacement caused the old union to degenerate.
"With the old union, they tried to give students the best price, so they didn't make proper maintenance and repairs," Marion said. "You let things go too long and they become very expensive to replace."
Undergraduate Student Government President Micah Kamrass said that to have a building like the Ohio Union, it is necessary to charge a union fee, but USG is working to decrease the fee for students.
"We are thrilled to have the Ohio Union - it is one of the greatest buildings in the country," Kamrass said. "We want the fees to be lower but we understand they're necessary in order to have a building as incredible as the Ohio Union. USG is doing everything it can to lower (fees), whether it be finding sponsorships or helping with fundraisers."
Fourth-year Nick Hardaway said college students are already nickel-and-dimed enough as it is, and expecting them to fund the Ohio Union is unreasonable.
"College students are asked to pay for a bunch of things already, like books and other fees, which add up," Hardaway said. "I think it's really unreasonable and unfair."
Although Hardaway does not agree with OSU's method of financing the Union, he said he is still glad it was built.
"I think it's a great thing - I'm glad they built it," Hardaway said. "Perez Hilton was here, and I got to see him (at the Union), and it was fun. I think we could pay for some special events that go on there … but I think they should just find another way to pay for the Union and keep it up."
Foriska said the Student Activity Fee covers those types of events and is separate from the Union fee.
"It's not paying for the concert in the ballroom," Foriska said, referring to the Union fee. "It's paying for the ballroom to be available to have a concert in."
Kamrass said students face large financial burdens, so those who are upset have reason to be.
"But I think there is a majority who support the Union and the fee," he said.
Marion said he supports the Union fee but believes the overall cost of education is getting steep.
"I was personally concerned a little about the amount of the fee, but when they presented their financial model for the structure, it seemed reasonable. I was glad they were phasing it in to decrease the impact on students," Marion said. "With all the fees together, it wasn't the Union fee I was concerned about; it was the total cost of attendance."
Marion added that relying on students to support projects like this is not out of the ordinary.
"At the end of the day, it's hard to run a student union without making it heavily subsidized by students," Marion said. "It's common practice in higher education."
Miami University, a comparable public Ohio university, might charge its students a higher fee than OSU for the construction of its new student union, according to The Oxford (Ohio) Press.
The Miami Board of Trustees will consider a union fee of up to $125 per semester, a measure that was already approved by the board finance committee, The Oxford Press reported recently. That fee would exceed OSU's fully phased-in $63-per-quarter fee by more than $60 per year.
Kamrass encourages students to use the Union as much as possible because they are paying for it.
"I think every student can get their money's worth if they choose to," Kamrass said.
Union director Tracy Stuck was unable to comment.