Students at UC Davis pay approximately $16 million every year in registration fees. As that number increases, so do the questions many students have as to where exactly that money is going.
Student regent for the University of California, D’Artagnan Scorza, commissioned a recently released report on fee accountability in the hope of answering some of the questions regarding the use of student registration fees.
“Every year, we as students say ‘don’t raise our fees‘ and frequently we don’t have a good enough grasp of university knowledge,” Scorza said. “We don’t have a clear understanding of how our fees are being used, and we don’t have a clear definition of how they’re supposed to be used.“
Registration fees, according to the UC Office of the President, are to be used to “support services which benefit the student and which are complementary to, but not a part of, the instructional program.“
Each university can interpret how the fees are used, depending on needs and mandates of the respective campus.
Registration fees account for only a portion of total fee revenue. Other funds come from fees such as the educational fee, used for the university’s operating budget, and campus-based fees, supporting services like ASUCD and Unitrans.
“While registration fee funds go primarily towards student services, we have a higher level of campus-based fees,“ said Janet Gong, assistant vice chancellor of student affairs. “So our funding looks a little different than other schools.”
Currently 52 percent of registration fees were used for student services at UC Davis in the 2006-2007 school year, according to the Office of Resource Management and Planning (ORMP). Though the spending of this revenue is consistent with UC policy, the regents‘ report hopes to encourage campuses to provide more specifics of the spending, and make that information more readily available to students.
Each university’s disclosure of spending is different. UC Davis is one of three UC schools that does not give a breakdown of funds on each quarter’s billing statement. Instead, students receive one all-inclusive bill with a separate Student Health Insurance amount included separately. The breakdown of where the different fees go is available on the ORMP website.
“[The administration] is not being as transparent as they could be,” Scorza said. “Students need a sense of full disclosure and no one is really volunteering this information.“
In response to this belief, Gong said that there is a wide array of student organizations designed to advise and counsel the administration on fee spending, such as the Student Services and Fees Administrative Advisory Committee. She said she feels the student involvement in the entire process ensures the transparency of the fee process.
Max Mikalonis, chair of SSFAAC, holds the same conviction. However, he recognizes that there could be more student awareness about fees, especially considering that those fees are increasing in response to decreased state funding.
“The average student doesn’t have the information they need about where their fees go,” Mikalonis said. “They need to be proactive and it would be helpful for them to know not only to make their opinion better but also appreciate where their money is being used.“
The regents will continue to investigate university spending through the use of campus, user and education fees. Subsequent plans for monitoring university revenue have not yet been established. They hope that the current report will engage dialogue about the cost of education and student services, Scorza said.
“The point is that we’re not trying to make the university look bad,” Scorza said. “We’re just trying to help people understand these policies.”
The regents‘ report is available at ga.berkeley.edu/~tech/gsa.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.