Fee increases are coming. Of the 14 broad-based fees paid by undergraduates, Binghamton University is proposing increases to four of them: the student health fee, the technology fee, the intercollegiate athletics fee and the career resource fee. While the increases aren’t exorbitant — the total jump amounts to an extra $35.50 per semester — we all know that every dollar counts when you’re a student. So how do we make sure it’s spent effectively?
SUNY policy requires that campuses gather feedback from students anytime a campus wishes to increase a broad-based fee. When the administrators submit their requests to the SUNY administration, they must also submit our student feedback for review. To be clear, student feedback is not a veto, but with strong participation and thoughtful responses, it can play an instrumental role for decision-makers in the Couper Administration Building and the SUNY administration.
This year, we’re working to bring more student voices into the conversation than ever before. Until this year, only a handful of students participated in whichever committees reviewed each fee. Now, in partnership with University President Harvey Stenger and the administration, we’ve released a new page on the University website on which students can find information about each proposal and provide feedback on how the money can be put to the best possible use.
All comments will be reviewed, but those looking to be particularly impactful should consider the criteria through which SUNY reviews proposals: 1) Does it add value for the student body and the campus community? 2) Does it provide a service or savings for students? 3) Is it something that is supposed to be funded with tuition money or other funds, according to state law and SUNY policy? 4) Does the financial situation of the institution justify a fee increase? As students, our most valuable feedback will likely address the first two questions.
This opportunity for meaningful comment is about more than giving a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ More than any other time of the year, this is a chance for students to maximize the value of our dollars by telling the University how its services can better serve our needs. I challenge you to think carefully about the services our fees support and what we would change if given the opportunity, and to share those thoughts through the feedback form. A professor of mine regularly encourages us to “be active agents of our own education,” an idea that I believe extends to advocating for the University to provide the best services possible. It is as important as it’s ever been to ensure that students’ priorities are known, communicated to decision-makers and reflected in our budgets and practices.
Harry Bittker is a senior majoring in political science. He currently serves as the student representative of the BU Council.