Students to fund Rec Center improvements

Northern Kentucky University is on pace to charge its students a higher fee than some other Kentucky colleges and universities to improve and maintain the Campus Recreation Center.

Four universities asked the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to approve special use fees to fund improvements to their rec centers. Western Kentucky University, the University of Louisville, Morehead State University and Northern Kentucky University were granted permission to apply their proposed student fees.

The Council on Postsecondary Education is the legislative body governing state-funded colleges and universities in Kentucky.

Funds generated from the fee will pay for improvements to the rec center, which students, faculty and staff can use by swiping their All Card. There are no monthly membership fees associated with using the facility but, starting fall 2011, students will have up to a $384 fee added to their tuition bill to cover additional equipment and renovations to the Albright Health Center.

While the first year of NKU’s rec center fee will be less expensive than some other Kentucky colleges and universities, by the fourth year, it will be the most expensive of the four universities that asked for special use fees this year.

The fee was originally proposed to be tiered over three years, charging students $5 per credit hour the first year, $10 the second year and up to $16 the third year, depending on construction costs. But NKU Budget Director Kenneth Kline said the NKU administration, led by President James Votruba, worked with council staff to spread the increases over four years so that the increases aren’t as dramatic each year.

Now the fee increases will be spread over four years, beginning in 2011-2012. The fee is charged per credit hour and is capped at 12 credit hours per semester. It starts at $4 per credit hour per semester, increasing in increments of $4 each year until it reaches $16 per credit hour per semester in the 2014-2015 academic year. The last year’s increase may be less if construction costs are less than projected.

Full-time students will pay $96 a year for the first year, $192 a year for the second year, $288 a year for the second year and finally up to $384 a year, indefinitely, beginning the third year. This fee is on top of other tuition increases that may occur each year.

WKU asked for a flat $70 per semester fee for full-time students, and a prorated fee for part-time students. UofL requested a $98 per semester fee, prorated for part-time students.

MSU had already charged a per-semester $35 student fee for their rec center. They asked for an increase to bring the total student fee to $100 per semester for students.

Kline said the difference in fee costs is could be that other universities are contributing funds to their rec centers, but construction and renovations to the rec center at NKU are being funded from the student fee and the revenue the rec center brings in already.

“Really, what it has to do with is the university putting money in the building and how much of the project is the fee going to cover,” Kline said.

At this time, there have been no discussions about whether or not faculty and staff will begin paying a fee to use the rec center. Kline said use of the facility is considered to be an employee benefit and to change that, the Faculty Congress and Faculty Senate would need to work with Human Resources to negotiate the change.

The approval from the council gives NKU permission to start designing the new building, but not consent to begin construction or renovations. NKU will not be able to begin construction until Kentucky approves its biennial budget in July 2012.

Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management Larry Blake said the state usually makes the announcement in May, and the university hopes to begin construction in July. But, if construction is not approved, NKU will have to wait two more years to try to gain approval again.

If that happens, Blake said the fee will continue to be assessed, but the funds will be set aside in a separate account for use in the rec center only. Blake said they could use the funds for equipment replacement during that time, if needed, “but not much else.”

The next step of the process is to request proposals from building designers and choose a firm to design the building. Blake said he expects to have a designer selected in the fall.

Throughout the design process, Blake said there will be student focus groups where any student who would like to contribute to the design process can discuss their ideas for the rec center. There will also be a student committee formed to help contribute to the plans.

“It’s a student building and they’re going to guide the process,” Blake said.