The controversial Academic Excellence and Success Fee, put off last December amid student protest, is set to hit students’ wallets this semester.
Last semester students were informed through SOLAR that the University was going to back-charge $37.50 for the fee, before redacting the fee a day later. Students taking 10 or more credits will be charged $75 annually. This year, the fee will only be implemented for the spring semester.
In a September 20th memorandum, Nancy Zimpher, SUNY’s chancellor, expressed that SUNY’s Board of Trustees had been in favor of charging new “broad-based fees,” including instructional cluster fees charged to students taking a related group of courses and the Academic Excellence and Success Fee.
According to the Stony Brook Graduate Student Organization Senate’s meeting minutes from October 11, Dr. Susan Dimonda, the Associate Dean and Director of Student Life, reported that a $75 fee per semester will be required to finance the costs of the recreation center. Although the $75 fee was voted for undergraduate students, no fee has been established for graduate students.
A requisition against the fee on the online petition site Change.org has received 2,233 signatures as of this writing. The stated goal by petitioner Jose Rivera is to reach 2,500 signatures. His original goal of 1,000 signatures was reached within a day.
Dennis N. Assanis, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, called the fee an “investment” in a letter to the students. In Stony Brook’s NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant, Stony Brook stated that the fee, along with tuition hikes, will allow the University to add 267 new faculty positions.
The plan, however, offered no timetable as to when these hirings will take place, which could mean students will be paying for benefits they may not be receiving.
The school is balancing its attempts to strengthen the university academically while placating students with financial constraints. The school states that a portion of the academic excellence fee is to go towards TAP-eligible students, those whose family income is less than $75,000.
In the recent past, Stony Brook has increasingly relied on tuition as a source of revenue for the university. In the past 10 years, tuition revenue has increased 114 percent, while state support has increased just 4 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public school tuition as a whole has risen nearly 74 percent during the last 10 years.
The Bursar’s Office, which is in charge of student accounts, declined to comment. A spokesperson for the university did not respond to questions.
Three other flagship SUNY centers—Albany, Binghamton and Buffalo—along with the entire CUNY system, have implemented academic excellence fees for this semester as well.
On August 3, 2011, the CUNY Board of Trustees approved the tuition and fee structure for all CUNY campuses, effective fall 2011, which was met with much derision from students at Baruch College, where the vote was held. SUNY hasn’t been able to stage a protest on a similar level.
This comes at a time when President Obama has warned public universities not to raise tuition if they expect taxpayer support. “We are putting colleges on notice — you can’t assume that you’ll just jack up tuition every single year,” Obama said in a speech last Saturday at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers every year will go down.”