With 80% support, the athletic fee referendum fee passes.
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A student referendum has decided how the university will go forward in hiring faculty by choosing to increase the athletic fee, passing 1687 in favor to 408 against.
“The whole of purpose of this referendum is that any student who comes to Commerce should finish in four years,” Dean of Students Dr. Aguirre said. “A student staying for a fifth or sixth year spends their money and our money as well because we have to use resources that we could using to serve first- or second-year students.”
Currently, this university has the lowest athletic fee in the A&M System, and with the referendum’s passing, the fee will increase to $32 per credit hour, resulting in a relatively low $252 increase in tuition for a 12-hour semester or $2,016 increase across eight semesters of the same hour amount. The fee referendum would raise $866,000 a semester for new 16 tenure-track faculty members, placed in the most critically short-staffed departments over three years, who might quicken a student’s degree completion. Therefore students would be able to graduate on-time or early, saving them roughly between $9,000 to $18,000. However, this increase may prove to be too much for students that already struggle to finance their education.
The history on the raising of the athletic fee begins in 2008. Prior to 2008, there was no athletic fee, and thus the athletics program pulled money from the student services fee that usually goes toward funding organizations such as S.E.E.D.S. or L.E.A.D. This was frowned upon because it forced the university to underfund vital student services, and in 2008, an athletic fee was introduced at $10.99. However, as the university and the athletics program have grown, this has become too small a fee.
“They made a mistake in 2008,” Dr. Aguirre said bluntly. “They should have either made the athletic fee higher or put in a clause that would have raised the athletic incrementally to match the university’s growth.”
Because of a statewide ban on fee referendums due to the belief of keeping higher education costs low, the university had to obtain special permission from the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents to hold this referendum with the condition that the money that would be freed by raising the fee would solely be used for hiring new faculty members, and this would be checked in the form of an audit. This is different than in 2008 when only vague promises were made to avoid using student service fees for athletics which still pulls from those funds.
“The university doesn’t want to the price to go up. It prides itself on that,” Dr. Aguirre said. “Look at the diverse body of students. If we price ourselves out of that, we won’t have that body of students anymore.”