University of Maryland students believe their fees are not spent properly by the university

University of Maryland students don’t believe that the university is spending their money wisely.

There is a $196 million investment in the re-envisioned Cole Field House (expected to open in early 2019) for student athletes, predominantly football players; and the construction of the purple line that will be completed in 2022 will cause temporary road closures, traffic detours and the elimination of hundreds of Lot 1 parking spots.

Tuition is controlled at the state level, however, the Student Government Association is focused on advocating for a change within student fees.

“When it comes to [student] fees that’s something that can be easily changed,” said Andrew Stover, SGA vice president of financial affairs. “Whenever there is something that needs to be increased, the first instinct of the university is going to be to go to fees because that’s the easiest route.”

The recent addition of napping pods in McKeldin Library and mental health counselors after the university realized they no longer had enough staff to service the needs of students are examples of initiatives funded by student fees.

SGA compiled a report throughout the 2017-2018 academic year, detailing how the university spent money obtained from student fees. Not every department was willing to share information detailing their allocation of money, but most were.

Student fees total $1,950 per student. There are two forms of fees: mandatory and non-mandatory. Mandatory fees are paid by full and part-time students. Non-mandatory fees are paid only by students who use the services that the fee funds, such as on-campus housing or a dining plan. SGA focused on mandatory fees in their report.

The largest student fee by far is the athletics fee. The current cost is $406. Seventy-five percent of that money is used for gameday tickets and 10 percent is distributed to the gameday experience like marching band pep band costs, giveaways and Maryland Madness. Another 10 percent is going to the facilities’ management like Wi-Fi installations in the Xfinity Center and practice facilities. The last 5 percent is for student employees that are working within the athletic department.

According to SGA’s report, money can only be spent within the reason that they are collected.

“There’s a lot of problems at the university, but the money also has a specific purpose,” Stover said. “It’s hard to say we charged you this fee for this specific purpose but we’re not going to use it for that. We’re going to use it for something else. You have to use it for what it is meant for.”

Adding to the growing concerns at UMD, mold is growing in dorms which prompted the university to relocate some students to College Park hotels until they cleaned all the rooms.  

Ethan Small, a freshmen mechanical engineering major, said “It’s like really disappointing because I’m paying all of this money and I expect to have a little better [ living environment].” Small said paying for school is very stressful for him because he is an out of state student and 1 of 5 children in his household.

 SGA President Jonathan Allen showcases sign for WTF campaign which is said to debut early next semester. (Jazmin Conner/The Black Explosion)

SGA President Jonathan Allen showcases sign for WTF campaign which is said to debut early next semester. (Jazmin Conner/The Black Explosion)

SGA plans to start a campaign next semester called “What to Fix UMD” or “WTF UMD,” an online platform with the purpose of giving students a way to connect with SGA and a way for SGA to address student concerns. Even though the focus of the campaign isn’t on student fees, SGA is hoping the initiative will jump start the conversation of more involvement between them and the student body.

“As far as people coming to us, we need to do a better job of that,” Stover said. “Ultimately, I will say that nobody ever actually comes to us with their problems, but we need to go to them. There needs to be some kind of halfway point.”