Board of trustees approves proposed 2007-08 fees

Western Carolina University’s board of trustees unanimously approved proposed tuition and fees for the 2007-08 academic year, including an additional debt service fee to fund construction of a modern dining facility to replace the current Dodson Cafeteria, built in 1966.

The board also agreed to call for a thorough study of current student health services and fees to ensure that the needs of the overall student body are being met, with particular focus on mental health and women’s clinic issues and the cost of prescription drugs. The review comes at the request of student board member Cody Grasty, president of WCU’s Student Government Association.

Western’s trustees approved the proposed schedule of fees during their quarterly meeting Friday, Dec. 1. The fees, subject to the approval of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, are within a 6.5 percent fee increase ceiling established by the UNC board earlier this year.

Western traditionally sets fees for the next academic year as early as possible to give students and their families reasonable time to prepare for the financial requirements of attending the university, said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance, who presented the proposed schedule of fees to the trustees.

With the proposed increases, costs to attend WCU in 2007-08 would total $8,980 per year for a typical in-state student living on campus and choosing the most popular food service plan, an increase of $575 a year. “Even with the modest increase in tuition and fees, Western will continue to offer a high quality education at a reasonable cost,” Wooten said. “We also would remain among the least expensive institutions in the UNC system.”

Citing figures from the College Board, Wooten told trustees that the average cost to attend a U.S. public four-year institution in 2006-07 is $16,567, including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other out-of-pocket expenses. That compares to $11,197 at Western, when additional living expenses are included.

Among the proposed increases is a new dining facility debt service fee of $113 per year that will allow WCU to build a $17.2 million dining hall consisting of 53,500 square feet with seating for 900 patrons. The contemporary facility will have two levels – a lower level featuring a restaurant, coffee house, convenience store and quick service dining, and an upper level with the flexibility of serving either a retail or all-you-care-to-eat meal plan.

The board also approved a $22 increase in the student recreation center debt service fee (from $128 to $150 per year) to allow WCU to proceed with building its new student recreation center, a $16.8 million, 73,000-square-foot facility adjacent to Reid Gymnasium. University officials broke ground on the project last October, but bids for construction came in over-budget, forcing architects to return to the drawing board for modifications to the facility.

Construction is set to begin in January with a completion date of June 2008. The center will include two multipurpose courts, a climbing wall, a 9,800-square-foot area for strength training and cardiovascular equipment, a three-lane indoor track, a 2,500-square-foot exercise studio, fitness assessment rooms and locker rooms.

Also among the approved fees are increases ranging from $62 to $310 per year in the cost of on-campus housing, with the largest increases for single occupancy rooms. Wooten told the board the increases provide additional funds to maintain and improve existing residence halls.

The university plans to replace two aging residence halls – Helder and Leatherwood – located near the center of campus. Demolition of the 400-bed Helder Hall is scheduled for the end of the 2007 spring semester, with completion of the project in time to accommodate residents for the 2008 fall semester. Demolition of the 400-bed Leatherwood Hall is slated for the end of the 2008 spring semester, with completion targeted for fall 2009. The two halls, with a total of 832 beds, will be linked by a covered, arched walkway.

The new residence halls – along with the dining facility, student recreation center and last year’s relocation of a main road that bisected the campus – will transform the center of campus, providing a traditional “college quad” feel with ample green space and a pedestrian-friendly environment, said Chancellor John W. Bardo.

“As part of our university master planning process, we are seeing very dramatic changes in the central core of campus that will provide more open space for students, establish a walking community and village concept, and connect the entire campus through strong pedestrian corridors,” Bardo said. “With the removal of the road from the center of campus, our students are already enjoying a safer environment. As these new facilities come on line during the next couple of years, they’ll be enjoying a more community-oriented campus environment.”

Among other proposed fee increases:

– $19 increase in the education and technology fee, from $293 a year to $312, for technology upgrades in classrooms, computer laboratories and residence halls, including expansion of the capacity of the campus computer network and improvements to student e-mail service.

– A $3 increase in the transportation fee, from $45 per year to $48, to provide funds to operate a campus shuttle service that began in fall 2004, including the construction of shelters.

– Parking fees would increase by $3, from $50 to $53 per year, for students and staff. Debt service fees for construction of athletic facilities and expansion of the A.K. Hinds University Center would decrease by $11 a year, the result of rising student enrollment.