Western Carolina University’s Board of Trustees dropped a bomb on students last Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, when it proposed a four percent increase in student fees.
The proposal is slated to take effect in the Fall semester of 2001, provided the University of North Carolina Board of Governors approves it.
The student fee increase would raise money to support the university’s intercollegiate athletic teams, broaden social programming for students, and fund the expansion of the University Center.
The student fee increase includes a $16 hike in athletic fees, a $21.50 raise for student activities, a $2 increase for health services, and an additional $5 for education and technology costs.
Students living on campus can expect a five percent increase in housing fees. Also, the declining balance meal plans will go up three percent.
One of the biggest financial shots in the arm will be going to the university’s athletic department. The money is earmarked for additional support in women’s sports, improving the competitiveness of intercollegiate teams, and addressing athletes’ health and safety issues.
However, many students are concerned that the university is placing too much emphasis on the welfare of athletes while ignoring the health of the general student body. “Sports is already a focus at Western,” said Lea Menser, a sophomore from Asheville.
“Why do they need more money? Health is an important issue. A lot of students don’t have health insurance, and the only medical attention they get is through health services.”
Other students note that the funding doesn’t match up with student needs. “If the fees are supposed to be helping students then they need to go where it would really help,” said Rachel Whisnant, a senior from Hickory. “More people need to go to the doctor than attend sporting events. The last thing a person needs to hear is that he or she needs to come back at a less busy time. We need more medical personnel to meet the demand.”
Despite the modest portion of the fund increase that the university’s health services are projected to receive, some improvements are being planned. These developments include expanded wellness programs, a campus-wide meningitis vaccination effort, a women’s clinic, and a pharmacy program.
The current distribution of fees per student allows $99.50 for education and technology, $175 for health services, $293 for student activities, and $321.50 for athletics.