Mar 12, 2019
Picture by LaShayla Lumpkins / The Vermilion
As the cost of a diploma continues to rise, student fees remain a continuing source of frustration for University of Louisiana at Lafayette students.
The most recent development is the #cutthefees movement, a protest from the local chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, who are expressing grievances with rising costs and a perceived lack of transparency as to where the money is spent.
“We are specifically protesting student fees to advocate for financial transparency and a conservative approach to spending UL student money,” said YAL President Kaleb Moore. “We believe the current student fee structure does very little to show where the money is going.”
The well-documented drop of state funding to public universities has caused a necessary struggle to cover costs. Due to state laws that strip schools of the autonomy to raise tuition on their own, Louisiana universities like UL Lafayette have resorted to covering the fund gap with rises in student fees, a frustrating loophole in the system for students and families who constantly have to come up with more money.
UL Lafayette does provide a breakdown of the allocation of funds on the university's website, but some of the language and categories are vague. According to Moore, YAL is advocating for UL Lafayette to implement a version of the “Ohio Checkbook,” which is a comprehensive, detailed list of that state’s spending. The checkbook is a major campaign promise of YAL member Rachel Lautigar’s current campaign for SGA president.
“I support paying for quality educations, but I do not believe that every fee contributes to students receiving quality educations,” Moore said. “I, as well as most students I’ve met with, believe that a more detailed report would give the students the information necessary for taking the appropriate action regarding the fees.”
Moore also said he and YAL are advocating for less responsibility on students to fund various university programs, groups and events that they are not involved with or aren’t interested in. Moore said the onus to find funding should be put on the organizations themselves, and that the burden shouldn’t be on the shoulders of every student.
Moore also acknowledged that the fees were passed by a student body referendum, but lamented the fact that most of the current student body was not involved, and called for current students to have a voice.
“I believe it’s in the best interest of the organizations, their members and non-member students to explore other means of funding such as fundraising, outside donations and individual membership fees,” Moore said. “This idea of individual responsibility rather than a collective tax for funding boosts passion and interest for those who are really motivated and willing to invest. It doesn’t disenfranchise the rest of the student body, (who) could potentially resent an organization it funds but doesn’t participate in.”
However, costly current university projects create a perceived lack of priority management on the part of UL Lafayette administration. These projects make the idea that the university is strapped for cash less believable for protesters like Moore. The current increase in housing, which was met with great opposition when announced, is an example.
“I believe that raising student fees without sufficient explanation is harmful to the students as well as the faculty,” Moore said. “Personally, it is concerning to me that luxury apartments and an amphitheater can be built immediately following the cuts in state funding … it only contributes to the disenfranchisement and frustration.”
Budget cuts show that Louisiana’s state legislature continues to put higher education at the bottom of it’s list of priorities for funding. A budding contentious relationship between students and administration at UL Lafayette has become the result.*
*This post has been shortened from the original to include only relative content