Students face higher fees

By Michelle Landrum

NIU students will face increased student fees next fall to ease a $36,000 deficit in the Student Association mass transit system.

The deficit was caused by overestimation of chargeable credit hours and high gasoline prices.

Students currently pay $2.42 per credit hour for the mass transit system, but the fee might climb as high as $2.90 per hour, said Cyro Gazola, a graduate assistant responsible for the mass transit budget.

“It’s really tough to trust in estimations,” Gazola said. “To keep (mass transit) surviving, we either have to increase student fees or cut services,” he said.

Budget snags began two years ago when the President’s Fee Study Commission overestimated the number of chargeable student credit hours. The number of hours again was overestimated last year.

Deviations in chargeable hours occur when students add and drop classes. Because about 98 percent of the budget comes from student fees charged per credit hour, a small deviation can have large consequences.

Although the board is examining other ways to lower the deficit, a fee increase “is inevitable,” Gazola said. “I see no way of getting through without a fee increase.”

In the beginning of this year, the board predicted a $110,000 carryover from last year, but the board actually has about $62,000. About $27,000 of projected funds will not be available for the mass transit system because of a 2.2 to 2.5 percent overestimation in credit hours.

The possibility of a fee increase for mass transit is not the only increase that students might face.

After detailing his meeting with NIU President John La Tourette, Mass Transit Adviser Dave Pack said, “I would foresee that across the board, student fees will increase.” The overestimation signals the “start of a 2.2 to 2.5 percent increase in student fees,” he said.

Rising gasoline prices are another factor contributing to the mass transit deficit. If gas prices would have remained stable, the board expected a $16,000 fuel credit. However, the full amount must be spent because gas prices rose.

The Mass Transit Board needs a “bare minimum” safety margin of 3 to 5 percent in the total budget, Gazola said. To break even, the board would have to recommend an 8 percent increase, he said. To maintain the current level of service and have a 3 percent safety net, the board will need about a 20 percent increase, Gazola said.

“We need better planning for the next year,” Gazola said. The Mass Transit Board has had budget carryovers of about $100,000 for the past several years. A 3 percent safety margin would result in a $35,000 carryover, Gazola said.