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Why WSU is asking students to raise their own fees

Richard Muma

Richard Muma
Richard Muma

WSU students, who returned to campus Tuesday for the start of spring semester, are being asked to raise their own fees to finance improvements in classroom, laboratory, library and student services space across the campus.

The proposed changes benefit every college in the university and will improve the educational setting for many thousands of students for years to come. The changes will provide updated spaces and new technology to create and collaborate; optimized environments for applied learning and research; and convenient, accessible study spaces and student services.

This is the first student fee referendum since the 2012 vote that led to the highly successful expansion and renovation of Rhatigan Student Center.

Before voting begins March 4, students will have many opportunities to learn more about the current plan and voice their opinions at a series of town halls. I’m writing to explain to the community why this new initiative is so important to WSU’s future.

It would be ideal if the university could take care of these improvements with other resources, but the state doesn’t fund capital improvement projects like those we’re proposing.

We can borrow the money through bonds, as long as student fees are in place as a guaranteed source of revenue to make bond payments. The proposed $6-per-credit-hour increase is the same amount devoted to paying off the Rhatigan bonds.

As provost and acting president, I’m responsible for working with faculty and many others to provide excellent academic opportunities for our students in the best possible environment for learning. If we don’t keep improving facilities and programs, we risk being less attractive to students and faculty considering WSU as a place to learn and work.

Based on discussions with students, faculty and staff, these priorities were identified: updating of historic Henrion Hall and Wilner Auditorium; updated biology labs; health care clinical space improvements driven by accreditation requirements; centralized space for student services in a renovated Clinton Hall; engineering wind tunnel repairs; restrooms for the library’s 24-hour study space; and a long-planned new building for the Barton School of Business.

The proposed student fee will provide $20 million for the new business building, Woolsey Hall, and $18.5 million for improvements to existing buildings. Private donors have already pledged $30 million for the business building and nearly $260 million for scholarships, professorships and other WSU improvement initiatives.

I know we are asking a lot of students and their families, especially in a time when increasing fees are hard to manage financially. But spreading this across all colleges and students makes it more manageable for everyone.

Because all of the renovation projects are scheduled to be completed within three years of the start of construction, some current students will enjoy the benefits of new and renovated spaces. Those graduating sooner will be a leaving a legacy for future Shockers, as their predecessors did by approving funding for the Rhatigan Renewal.

If you have questions, email me at provost@wichita.edu. For more information, go to wichita.edu/shockthefuture.

Richard Muma is provost of Wichita State University