Midday on Thursday, Stony Brook University revealed its proposed Comprehensive Fee increase for the academic year of 2013-2014 in an email sent by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dennis N. Assanis.
This tuition increase is a part of the NYSUNY 2020 initiative signed into law in 2011. The program’s goal, according to the university’s website, is to replace “an era of dramatic tuition increases with a system that is predictable and empowers students and parents to plan for college expenses.”
Prior to its introduction, the average annual SUNY tuition increase was 6.7 percent, resulting in a higher tuition cost as compared to increases created by the steady $300 increases as part of the five-year NYSUNY 2020 plan.
The proposed $24.50 Comprehensive Fee increase is a collective number based off five departments’ combined fee increases—health services, intercollegiate athletics, recreation, technology and transportation.
At the media briefing held on Wednesday, each of these department heads discussed why exactly the increase for their department was needed and what the money would be going toward. Also mentioned was the use of department-specific student advisory boards to help determine what improvements need to be made.
Student Health Services
Dr. Rachel Bergeson, medical director of Student Health Services, described the $1.50 increase for her department as going toward four main areas—free seasonal flu shots for students, HIV testing, nicotine cessation products and counseling services and increased personnel in the pharmacy and front-desk areas of the Student Health Office.
Working to get smokers who are interested in breaking the habit nicotine-free was a strong point Bergeson made. With Stony Brook’s campus working to ban all smoking as of Jan. 1, 2014, she said the goal was one that had been in the works and that the health center has “been involved in for a long time now.”
So far, the center has helped 75 smokers with products and counseling, 25 of which have remained smoke-free according to Bergeson, who added that she hopes to help more students.
The Athletics Department is promising that students will reap many benefits from the $8.75 increase for its fee. These include supporting the facilities on campus, allowing for athletics-run events, transporting athletes to competitions and increasing the university’s brand.
Its website went on to list other benefits, such as allowing students to attend regular season intercollegiate athletic events free of charge, increasing opportunities for women, student employment opportunities and increasing diversity on campus.
“I think we saw the return on investment in the athletics fee,” Senior Associate Director of Athletics Matthew Larsen said, “with that investment turned around from the standpoint of success—being on national TV.”
Larsen placed heavy emphasis on the importance of increasing the reputation of Stony Brook’s 20 Division I athletics teams so the university’s brandmark would thereby increase as well.
Continuing on in the theme of athletic recreation, Jay Souza, director of Campus Recreation, said his department’s $2.25 fee increase would be going in three main directions—student employment, continuing the recreation center’s daily operations and a new project near the South P Lot.
The project includes the construction of three large, full-sized athletic fields for club sports, intramural programs and open recreations, according to Souza.
“The permit with Three Village Soccer Club that the university is working on is very near completion,” media relations officer Lauren Sheprow said, which means the project may be able to begin “fairly soon.”
The manager of instructional technology at DoIT, Diana Voss, says her department has quite a few projects planned as well.
The fee increase of $7.50 will go toward a number of initiatives by the department. For instance, establishing essential learning technologies in the Old Chemistry building, now known as Frey Hall, is on the department’s to-do list.
Improving connectivity in Javits is also a project Voss plans on tackling, with others including upgrades in services for SOLAR Mobile and Blackboard Mobile, improved wireless connectivity campus-wide and the upkeep of library databases.
Voss also mentioned that the fee is not used to help with the connectivity issues in residence halls, but that she recognizes investments in the vendor, Aruba Networking, are needed to ensure bugs are fixed. She also wants to make investments in the infrastructure.
“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time,” she said. “We do everything we can with that fee to provide the best possible services for our students.”
James O’Connor, the director of the office of sustainability, faculties and services division, also has a tall list of projects in mind.
Already, certain bus routes have been allocated a greater number of buses during peak times to allow for students to get around campus more quickly. O’Connor gave the example of the express bus route, which, during peak times on Tuesdays and Thursdays, used to have five buses operating. It now has six. The Hospital/Chapin route has also had this change implemented.
O’Connor’s department has purchased two new, more fuel efficient buses, plans on increasing the capabilities of SBU Smart Transit and is going to be introducing SBU Wolf Ride Bike Share later this spring.
“We are investing in hybrid technologies in order to try to get away from some of the changes in fuel,” O’Connor said. “We are also looking at further enhancements and partnerships with municipalities such as Suffolk County Transit.”
Lyle Gomes, vice president for finance and chief budget officer, stressed the importance of these fee increases, saying, “I’m not even sure we can keep pace with what student needs are.”
He is referencing the constant stream of new technologies, increasing gas prices and a lack of funding for health services.
At 4 p.m. on March 27 in the Student Activities Center auditorium, there will be an open town hall meeting hosted by the university to further address any student questions and concerns. All department heads and Provost Dennis Assanis will be at the meeting.