Mandatory technology fee quadruples

Controversial lab fee replaced with increased tech fee

Two major changes to the fees Mount Allison charges its students have shaken up the university’s operating budget. The annual technology fee which all students pay has quadrupled, from $50 last year to $200 this year, increasing the revenue from this fee by $321,450. Students registered in certain courses are no longer charged a $25 lab fee which was met with resistance from students and faculty last year. Despite the lab fee’s removal, the revenue gained by the university through student fees has increased by almost $270,000 since last year.
Mt. A’s budget manager, Chris Milner, said the intention of the technology fee was not to increase funding toward technology on campus, but to maintain its current quality.
“Any time we introduce a fee, people rightfully want to know why, and what [they] are getting for this fee,” said Milner. “Unfortunately, the fee was introduced to maintain what we already have, essentially, so the next year of students could maintain the same experience. People don’t always like to hear that – it’s not new, it’s not shiny, but that’s the reality of it.”
Vice-President Finance and Administration Robert Inglis said the technology fee was increased to make up for the university’s revenue shortfall caused by the provincial government’s recent tuition and grant freeze, announced on March 31. This freeze prevented New Brunswick universities from raising tuition to keep up with rising operational costs caused by inflation. Before the freeze, the university planned on raising its tuition within the two per cent limit previously imposed by the province.
Though the technology fee is not directly allotted for technology expenses, Milner and Inglis said that they were confident the $440,000 revenue gained from the technology fee would be spent on technology expenditures, because current technology expenditures are presently much higher.
“You have to look at the technology fee as part of the overall revenue budget, which goes to the overall expenses of the university,” said Inglis, “$45 million in, $45 million out.”
The changes made to this year’s budget were recommended in a report released on May 12 by the budget advisory committee, which included members from the administration, faculty, staff, and the Mount Allison Students’ Union.
“I think the technology fee may be a misnomer – what does technology mean?” said Amanda Cockshutt, the department head of chemistry and biochemistry. Cockshutt sat on the budget advisory committee and said that the intention of the fee should be for general revenue.
“I don’t even like it being called ‘technology fee’; I think it should just be called ‘student fee.’ ‘Fee for coming here,’” said Cockshutt, “‘we-cannot-cover-the-cost-based-on-the-grant-and-tuition-so-we’re-going-to-call-it-something fee.’”
In spite of this, Cockshutt said she prefers all students be charged the technology fee instead of only some being charged a lab fee. The university receives twice as much funding from the provincial government for science students than for arts students, which can offset the expense of certain science labs or classes that spend heavily on instruments or instructional support. Cockshutt said some of her students who are registered in four courses with labs paid up to $200 in lab fees last year.
“I don’t think science students are our most expensive students,” said Cockshutt. “For me, it doesn’t make any sense to charge science students a fee – that’s quite piddly anyway – and not let our most expensive students not pay fees.”
Director of Computing Services Helmut Becker said that he hopes the increased revenue from the technology fee will increase available funding for technology on campus, which has in past years been insufficient.
“In the past, when there was money left over at year’s end, we had a list of priorities and what we thought was the most important one maybe got funded, maybe two or three got funded – but they never all got funded,” said Becker.
The budget advisory committee report included a recommendation that an annual report on technology expenditures be created to ensure that the technology fee is being spent on technology. Inglis said that the release date of this report has not yet been set.

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