University of Hawaii junior Taylor Gardner already pays more than $250 per semester in student fees, and a new $50 athletics fee kicks in next semester.
So even a small proposed fee increase — $11 to support campus groups and clubs — is tough to swallow.
"Even at $11, it’s not cheap for me," said Gardner, a UH-Manoa economics major who is paying his own way through school. "It’s already hard for a lot of students to make do."
The student activity fee would rise to $11 per semester from $2.70 if the increase is approved. It would take effect next semester.
UH-Manoa students already pay more student fees than their counterparts in the rest of the 10-campus system, including a $20 per semester transportation fee that took effect this semester.
Outside of Manoa, UH students typically face only student government, programming, Board of Publications, health and technology fees, said Jan Javinar, director of student life and development on the Manoa campus.
UH-Manoa undergraduate fees per semester:
While the other nine campuses saw enrollment rise this semester to combine for an all-time high for the UH system, Manoa’s enrollment dropped; several students at the time blamed Manoa’s higher costs.
So the Student Activity Program Fee Board’s proposal to raise its fee comes at a tough time, said Liana Kobayashi, a UH-Manoa senior studying psychology and biology, who is the board’s chairwoman.
The $2.70 semester fee was implemented in 1978 and has not been increased in 32 years, Kobayashi said.
It’s designed to support nearly 200 registered independent UH organizations and UH departments and programs that request financial help from the Student Activity Program Fee Board.
The current board specifically wants to help theater, music, dance and other arts groups that are struggling to fund their programs while helping to give UH-Manoa students a reason to stick around campus, Kobayashi said.
"We’re trying to diversify campus life and make UH-Manoa a place students want to come to, not just be a commuter campus," Kobayashi said. "We see the needs of these groups semester after semester, year after year, and we’re just unable to meet all of the requests that come to us. The economy is really hard right now, so that’s why so many organizations are coming to us."
If the fee increase is approved, $1.95 of each $11 would go to the art department, $1.30 to the music department and $2.43 to Kennedy Theatre. The remaining $5.32 would be dispersed among individual organizations, departments and programs that come before the Student Activity Program Fee Board.
The fee-hike proposal needs the support of UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw and approval of the UH Board of Regents. However, it would still not cover all of the requests from groups seeking Student Activity Program Fee money, Javinar said.
"The fee increase would not support 100 percent of what the groups want," Javinar said. "It’s what the groups can live with. They face overall increased costs for all kinds of events. It costs more for a club to get a band and more for a club to get transportation for an excursion."
UH-Manoa’s student government, the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii, supported the increase this semester, but not unanimously.
"No one likes to pay more fees," said ASUH President Andrew Itsuno, a biology and political science major. "It comes down to whether it’s justified or not and how the fees will be used to help students."
The Student Activity Program Fee Board held two meetings on its proposal in September, sent out a campuswide e-mail explaining the plan and staffed an informational table inside the Campus Center to brief students.
"We reserved a table at Campus Center all day with informational sheets and fliers," Kobayashi said. "We wanted to talk to people. But pretty much nobody came up to us to say anything. There’s just a lot of general apathy."
But UH-Manoa students such as Ashley Diaz, a senior studying travel industry management, are hardly happy at the prospect of paying more money for yet another student fee.
"All these new increases aren’t fair to students who don’t go to sports events or don’t join clubs," she said. "Times are definitely tough."