East Carolina University officials and faculty discussed proposed tuition and fee increases at a forum on Wednesday for the 2020-2021 school year.
Colin Johnson, ECU Student Government Association president, began the meeting by informing the audience that the proposed tuition and fee increases are not finalized and still must go through multiple levels of approval before being enacted.
Sara Thorndike, vice chancellor of administration and finance at ECU, said the university is proposing a three percent increase in tuition for incoming undergraduate resident students, which would generate about $830,000 in revenue for the university.
The increase for incoming students would be about $154 per year, and students already attending the university would not be affected, Thorndike said. She said of the revenue generated by the increase, $50,000 would be used towards degree completion scholarships, $500,000 towards insurance and 280,000 towards a network refresh.
Thorndike elaborated on the insurance cost of $500,000 to a student who asked for the purpose of the funds. According to Thorndike, most of the academic buildings on campus last year were only insured for fire protection and now the university is aiming to purchase broad risk hurricane coverage, this cost from fire to broad risk would cost $800,000.
Thorndike said the proposed mandatory fee increases the university is proposing in three sectors of the university: athletics, education and technology and student unions. Of the total fee proposal of $77, $50 would go towards athletics, $10 for education and technology and $17 for student unions.
Jon Gilbert, ECU director of athletics, said the current student fee is at $773 and would be increased to $823. He said existing revenue is generated from ticket sales, the Student Pirate Club, concessions, parking passes and guaranteed games. He said ticket sales have decreased in recent years but the university is headed in the right direction.
“In 2016, we had 19,000 football season tickets, last year we were at a low of 12,500 tickets, this year we are trending in the right direction were at just a little more than 14,000 and I do think that will trend significantly upwards,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said efforts taken to help the athletics department have been taken by increasing parking pass costs and guaranteeing participation in football games at a big-name opponent schools to generate money.
“We (athletics) are not the most important thing that is going on at this institution, we have a lot more important departments, initiatives and areas but we are the most visible and I think with our visibility comes responsibility to do good,” Gilbert said. “I think this student fee will help from an operating standpoint.”
Wendy Creasy, ECU director of academic technologies, said the $10 increase fee for education and technology would support college laboratories with equipment, technical support response in classrooms, Pirate Tech assistance, computer labs and the online writing center.
Creasy said the new revenue generated by the $10 fee would support the networking of the university, which is necessary for wireless devices and security cameras. The fee would generate $250,000 towards the $900,000 network refresh needed for the university.
Erik Kneubuehl, Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Involvement and Leadership, said the $17 fee increase for student unions would go to the reparation and operation of buildings on ECU’s campus.
Kneubuehl said the revenue currently being generated from student fees and revenue generated in the Main Campus Student Center from rental and retail spaces has created a deficit.
“Our total revenue coming in does not meet the expenses it costs to run the building (the Main Campus Student Center),” Kneubuehl said. “It can cover us up to 2022 and into 2023.”
Kneubuehl said the increase of $305 through the $17 fee would bring in an additional $348,000 per year, which would hopefully prevent the funds from going into the negatives until 2025 or 2026, before having to ask for another fee increase.
The remainder of the fees discussed were non-mandatory fees, including: housing and dining fees, parking fees and OneCard fees.
The housing increase would be a three percent increase, according to Brian Mattern, ECU associate director for finance to maintain building quality across campus and increase student wages who are employed by the university.
Mattern said the dining fee would increase about two percent for mandatory meal plans and non-mandatory meal plans would increase about five percent.
Bill Koch, associate vice chancellor for Campus Safety & Auxiliary Services, proposed a two percent increase for all permit fees for parking, excluding garage fees which includes the parking garage located next to the Main Campus Student Center. The permit fees will increase one to eight dollars, depending on the permit.
OneCard replacement fees would increase $5, resulting in a $20 replacement fee for a new OneCard for students under the new proposal, according to Merlena Artis, ECU director of OneCard staff.
Before these proposals are finalized, these proposals must pass the two student forums, the SGA assembly meeting for feedback, the Board of Trustees must vote on the proposals on Nov. 22 and the Board of Governors must approve the proposals which will most likely be around February or March, according to Thorndike.