The Idaho State Board of Education has approved a plan to make certain student fees optional for Idaho’s four-year universities.
The new fee structure, which will go into effect fall of 2022, separates student fees into four separate categories:
- Student Enrollment, Engagement and Success
- Institutional Operations, Services and Support
- Student Health and Wellness
- Student Government
Of the four, students will only have the option to opt out of the Student Government fees, which amount to a total of $13.50 per student.
Student Government fees serve to fund Boise State’s student clubs and organizations. Each year, clubs are allowed to apply for grants from Boise State’s student government, the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU). The grants, which are funded by student fees, are then used for club activities open to all Boise State students.
During the 2021 regular legislative session, a bill was proposed to make all student fees optional on the grounds that students should not have to pay for services that don’t specifically benefit them. Examples of these services cited during the session included inclusion and diversity centers, club sports, childcare programs, minority student programs, advising and other student support services.
However, rather than make all student fees optional, the Idaho State Board of Education opted to design a system that would allow for transparency in what the fees are being used for.
“As a board, we’re really focused on improving access and affordability for all students,” said Kurt Liebich, board president of the Idaho State Board of Education. “We just want to make sure that [the fees] are really transparent so that when you choose to go to Boise State, you know what you’re getting and what you’re paying for.”
The board’s goal was to find a system that would remain consistent across Idaho’s four-year universities. Liebich explained that, with the way student fees were previously organized, their purpose was not always clear.
“When you look across our four-year schools, the way we did student fees was pretty opaque,” Liebich said. “It wasn’t really clear to students where their money was going.”
Despite students’ intentions to not utilize certain university resources, Liebich emphasized that retaining funding for some of these programs and resources could be integral for a university’s mission.
“The reality is, in the beginning of the year most students don’t know what’s going to happen in the year. They don’t know if they’re going to need counseling or not,” Liebich said. “As an institution, they believe having resources like counseling for students is really important … And so the decision there is ‘let’s make them mandatory so that we have access for all students.’ [We] recognize that not all students are going to use all services, but they’re just sort of the basic foundation that you really need to have a healthy community.”
The question remains of whether or not Boise State plans to actively inform students of their option to opt out of student government fees, or whether the information will be shared on an as-needed basis.
Kayla Magana is a junior biology major and serves as the vice president of Student Organizational Affairs for ASBSU’s funding board. She oversees the approval of funding requests and works alongside student clubs to help them through the application process. But even Magana has questions about how universities will communicate these changes.
“Are they going to let them know? Are they going to just kind of leave it as an option and make them find out themselves?” Magana said.
In order for students to opt out of student government fees, they will need to fill out a request form from the university. Magana hopes that going through this process will inform students about how their decision will impact what they participate in and how student organizations are able to function.
“I hope if they do decide to promote [the option to opt out], that they put those contingencies behind it once they know what those look like,” Magana said. “I really think we should have something that lets students know that it’s okay to opt in or out, that’s totally up to you. But just know that there might be things that won’t get funded or that you can’t join.
Accountability among students is another common concern; more specifically, those who may try to opt out of paying student government fees may still participate in university programs, and maybe even request funds from ASBSU themselves.
“I think that’s going to take a few discussions. It’s going to impact a few parties, not just students or advisors,” Magana said.
According to Liebich, the issue of accountability is something that needs to be addressed by the individual institutions, meaning many of these decisions are in the hands of the university’s administrations and student governments.
Magana hopes that students consider opting into the fees, which can provide valuable experiences for students.
“I want to encourage students to opt in and keep an open mind because I feel like that’s something I wish I would have done my first year. I wish I’d gotten more involved, because I know I would’ve had a better time,” Magana said. “I feel like when students have an environment that they feel comfortable in and somewhere they belong, they’re going to do better educationally.”