Decoding student fees: Part four

Not all fees are directed toward specific organizations. In fact, the effects of the Facilities Fee can be found in many different places throughout campus, including the chairs used by students, the paint on classroom walls and the walkways that students take to class.

Facilities Fee — $6 per credit for students registered in one or more credits, regardless of delivery mode (online or at a physical campus).

The Facilities Fee was established in August 2014. Originally, the fee was meant to counter the debt incurred by projects taken on by the UA system.

“One reason the fee was created is when the legislature pulled together different funding pieces for the UAF power plant, they required the University of Alaska to come up with some other funding mechanism to take part in the debt service,” Ryan Buchholdt, deputy director of UAA facilities & campus services, said.

Students were concerned about their funds being shared with another UA campus. Funds from the Facilities Fee were then separated for use at each respective campus, Buchholdt said.

One function of the Facilities Fee is to implement and improve walkways around campus. Photo by Jason Herr.

The Facilities Fee is intended to fund projects or initiatives that will benefit students, including implementing or improving areas like the walkway paths located around campus and classroom refreshes.

Classroom refreshes help to maintain a modern appearance in older campus areas. A refresh could mean replacing older, out-of-shape furniture or repainting a classroom.

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“There were no specific parameters put around how, from the system level, [the Facilities Fee] would be used. The guiding philosophy we established at UAA was to prioritize it for improvements to campus that are student-facing. For the first couple of years, that was certainly how it was used,” Buchholdt said.

In past years, the funds raised by the Facilities Fee have been redirected to more pressing university needs.

“During the budget decline years… unfortunately, [the Facilities Fee] had to be moved to supplement our operating budget on the daily maintenance and operations of the campus,” Buchholdt said.

Daily maintenance and operations include janitorial services, electrical maintenance and plumbing, all the necessary components to operate and maintain the campus on a daily basis.

This year, however, the funds have been returned to their original mission of planning for visible, student-facing improvements to the UAA campus, according to Buchholdt.

“We’ve recently been able to shift funding around so that we can return the Facilities Fee to that goal of funding initiatives and projects that are felt and noticed by students,” Buchholdt said.

Since the shift in funding, future Facilities Fee initiatives are yet to be determined. 

“We don’t have anything programmed in it right now, it is something we’re looking at for the coming [summer] construction season,” Buchholdt said. “I mean, one of the big priorities now is that the university has is shifting departments and student services around to make it easier on the student side. I think it’s still [to be determined] whether that touches this fund or not.”

Facilities personnel help determine what the fee revenue is used for. Photo by Jason Herr.

Potential initiatives are decided primarily by facilities personnel throughout the UAA campus.

“We do project planning and try to figure out what are the known issues around campus that we need to address, and what are the different funding sources available,” Buchholdt said. “I think that the key distinction is the focus on things that are very noticeable and beneficial to students helps guide which programs are rolled into that.”

Facilities staff hear student voices by meeting with the USUAA president and vice president in the spring, Buchholdt said.

Overall, the Facilities Fee aims to create a better, more reliable campus for students.

“Funding like this, something that is regular, something we don’t have to rely on the whims of Juneau and the governor to reach agreement on, allows us to have an actual stream that we can plan for,” Buchholdt said. “The importance here is that though it’s not a lot of money, it is at least a predictable amount of money that we have and again with the guiding philosophy of something student-facing, it really allows us to have those resources to deploy more effectively.”

The remaining student fees will be discussed in future issues of The Northern Light.

Decoding student fees: Part one

Decoding student fees: Part two

Decoding student fees: Part three