General Fees Series PART 1: Fees Overview

There will always be questions about how universities allocate their money.

Recently the majority of those questions surrounding Mid-American Conference schools have been on the topic of general fees.

This is no different at the University, where students, the Chicago Tribune and various Faculty Senate leaders from schools across the MAC have approached several officers of the University’s Faculty Senate on the topic.

“The discussion is happening, but at this point what our faculty senate needs to do is select a committee that is actually going to look into it and begin discussions with the administration about this subject,” said Joel O’Dorisio, Faculty Senate chair. “We don’t have a position on it yet. We aren’t leaning in any direction.”

These fees have been a large topic of conversation and while each Ohio school has the same definition of them, they are free to divide them up how they please.

The University’s Chief Financial Officer, Sherri Stoll, said, “The way the Ohio Revised Code defines a general fee is a fee that is charged uniformly to all students and is for non-academic student support services.”

While Stoll said there is no exact definition for non-academic student support services, it is used pretty standardly across the state.

“[Non-academic student support services] is what supports the student union, your intercollegiate athletics, if you have any portion of your health services on your campus, rec sports, it will support our busses and other similar things like that,” Stoll said. “Ice Arena, stadium, all of those kinds of things; it’s going to support some aspect of them.”

According to the 2015 proposed general fee and related auxiliary budgets, the service that receives the most support through general fees is intercollegiate athletics.

The Athletic Department received $12,282,708 through general fees, according to the 2015 proposed budget, that equals out to be $814.40 per year for each student at the University.

While the amount of money allocated may differ at each university, the same model is used at every school in Ohio except Ohio State, said Stoll.

“At every school in Ohio, except Ohio State, that charges general fees, whether they are a two-year or a four-year, if they have an athletic program the majority of the support that is going to their athletic program is coming from the general fees,” Stoll said. “The proportionately and the dollar amounts can vary widely.”

While the Board of Trustees approves each budget, they rely upon Stoll and her office to come together, said Fran Voll, chair of Board of Trustees.

“As they work out their budgets, we pretty much as a board of trustees agree to agree. A lot of the work is done before it gets to our board,” Voll said. “Some people may not think this, but we concern ourselves with expenses.”

When thinking about the general fees, it is easy to think of them as separate silos, said University Spokesman David Kielmeyer.

In that example there are three silos: tuition, room and board and general fees. While money can be moved within the silos, they can’t be moved outside of them. In other words money allocated to general fees can’t be used for tuition or room and board, and vice versa.

Even though general fee money can’t be moved to tuition, there is an argument that it could be moved to other things within the general fee label to support other services.

For Faculty Senate, a representative body that is composed of faculty representatives from each college plus a representative of retired faculty, even though they have not taken a stance on the topic, their interest at the University isn’t so much in how much other services receive, but in the quality of academics.

“As long as the academics are being supported and funded at the level, which supports our mission as an educational institution, everything is happy,” O’Dorisio said. “We don’t care how much or how little athletics uses.”

The full breakdown of general fees can be found at here.