State governance, politics, and mandatory student fees
Sterritt, Adam Burke
MetadataShow full item record
Rapidly increasing enrollments, combined with declining state revenues, cuts to state appropriations, and the increasing cost of educating students have coalesced during a global economic recession, leaving American institutions of public higher education in financial crisis. Institutions are looking for new sources of revenue and are increasingly turning to mandatory student fees to help fill the gap. In Georgia, public higher education is governed by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents (USG BOR), a highly politicized body that has the power to set mandatory student fee rates with significant input from institutional committees. This study aimed to discover the perspective of senior level officials in both the institution and the state governing body on the role of mandatory student fees in the USG. This paper reviews the literature informing the use and governance of mandatory student fees, examines USG mandatory student fee rates, policies, and procedures, and provides qualitative data from senior officials at the University System of Georgia and one sample USG institution. The economic and political conditions of the USG significantly affect student fee policy and rates. Examples in this study include changes in the merit-based HOPE Scholarship, a state performance audit of mandatory student fees, and leadership changes in the legislature and USG BOR. This study found that mandatory student fees are being utilized to offset the decline in state appropriations to the University System of Georgia, both at the system and institutional level. Fee rates are increasing dramatically in the USG, most significantly from a BOR-mandated special institutional fee and the proliferation of mandatory student fees to fund public private construction ventures. The BOR-mandated special institutional fee is the most significant finding of the study as it circumvented the fee approval process and has become an indispensable financial tool in funding the general operation and academic mission of USG institutions. State governance plays an important role in mandatory student fee decisions through the involvement of a complex web of stakeholders, which adds layers of politics that complicate the mandatory student fee process for the institutions as well as for the system.