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WCU trustees OK fee increases

Western Carolina University’s board of trustees unanimously approved proposed tuition and fees for the 2008-09 academic year, including increases to support operational costs for a new indoor recreation center currently under construction and to begin meeting student requests for enhanced campus health services.

Western’s trustees approved the proposed schedule of fees during their quarterly meeting Friday, Nov. 30. The fees are subject to the approval of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

Western sets fees for the next academic year as early as possible to give students and their families reasonable time to prepare for the financial requirements of attending the university, said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance, who presented the proposed schedule of fees to the trustees.

With the proposed increases, costs to attend WCU in 2008-09 would total $9,260.50 per year for a typical in-state student living on campus and choosing the most-popular food service plan, an increase of 3.16 percent, or $283.50 a year. “Western will maintain its tradition of offering a high-quality education at a reasonable cost, even with the moderate increase in tuition and fees,” Wooten said. “We would remain among the least-expensive institutions in the UNC system, and our increases reflect a trend across the system to keep costs as low as possible.”

Citing figures from the College Board, Wooten told trustees that the average cost to attend a U.S. public four-year institution in 2007-08 is $17,336, including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other out-of-pocket expenses. That compares to $11,897 at Western, when additional living expenses are included. Among the proposed increases is a $29 rise in the student activity fee (from $446.50 to $475.50 per year) to allow WCU to equip and operate its new student recreation center, a $16.8 million, 73,000-square-foot facility adjacent to Reid Gymnasium. Scheduled to open in fall 2008, the center will include two multipurpose courts, a climbing wall, a 9,800-square-foot area for strength training and cardiovascular equipment, a three-lane indoor track, a 2,500-square-foot exercise studio, fitness assessment rooms and locker rooms.

A proposed increase of $14 in the health services fee (from $216 to $230 per year) will enable the university to begin implementing recommendations of a health task force created last year. Student leaders asked the university to conduct a thorough study of existing services and fees to ensure that the needs of the overall student body are being met, with a focus on mental health, women’s clinic issues and the rising cost of prescription drugs.

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“Of course, students never want to see tuition and fees go up,” said Aaron Bloemsma, president of WCU’s Student Government Association and ex officio member of the board of trustees. “Based on what the fees are being used for, however, I can tell you the students are in support of what the board is doing.”

Also among the fees are increases ranging from $84 to $152 per year in the cost of on-campus housing, with the largest increases for single occupancy rooms. Wooten told the board the increases provide additional funds to maintain and improve existing residence halls, and to continue planning for a replacement for Helder Residence Hall, an aging facility demolished last year to make way for a new dining facility now under construction.

The proposed schedule includes a $50 increase in the local in-state tuition fee ($58 increase for out-of-state students) to be used for need-based scholarships, faculty salaries, and implementation of the Quality Enhancement Plan. A requirement for reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Western’s QEP is focused on improving undergraduate student learning by linking the entire university experience, in and out of the classroom, to help students connect academic and co-curricular activities to reach their goals after graduation.

Among other proposed fee increases:

• A $10 increase in the education and technology fee, from $312 a year to $322, for technology upgrades in classrooms, computer laboratories and residence halls, including expansion of the capacity of the campus computer network and improvements to student e-mail service.

• A $2 increase in the transportation fee, from $48 per year to $50, to provide funds to operate a campus shuttle service that began in fall 2004, including vehicle maintenance and construction of shelters.

• A $32.50 increase in the athletics fee, from $500.50 to $533, to provide funds to meet the rising cost of fielding intercollegiate athletics programs.

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