This might work, but…

Photo illustration from The Griffon News at Missouri Western State University

Colleges and universities need to raise tuition.

It sucks, but it is true. Yet the now infamous Senate Bill 389 and former State Sen. Gary Nodler’s (R-Joplin) “fiscal responsibility” stand in the way.

But the law allows student-imposed fees. And it is forcing at least one regional institution into the position of virtually begging.

According to The Griffon News, Missouri Western State University is considering a student-approved fee earmarked for a yet-to-be-determined purpose. The logic, obviously, is that it will free up general funds for other purposes in a tough budget climate.

I really have problems with the logic of simply having the  Western Student Senate vote on this. Sure, they are the students’ elected representatives, but comparing a student-imposed fee with, say, federal income taxes is comparing apples and pomegranates.

A federal income tax is a progressive tax. A student fee is regressive. Every student will pay the same fee. It is like a sales tax on tuition. It should go to a full student vote. And that vote should be administered by the Student Senate.

Why?

Because, fair or not, there will always be a perception that student government is more easily influenced by administrators. By putting it to a full student vote, it is above such “rigging” charges.  The Senate could certainly pass a resolution of support for the fee prior to the election. Or the Senate could determine the purpose of the fee and then have the student body vote up or down.

In 2008, Missouri Southern imposed a student fee to pay for the then-proposed Beimdiek Student Recreation Center. Technically, it put them over the state-imposed cap on tuition and fees. The Chart pointed this out and officials with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education said schools would get some leeway with the new law.

Southern should have immediately held a student vote. Instead, it dusted off a vaguely worded and ancient “survey” about a similar fee and cited that as prior student approval. Then it rushed a measure through the MSSU Student Senate. Students opposed to the fee or with questions were not allowed to address the Board of Governors or their student representatives before they were “taxed.”

Fast forward four years. The Rec Center is a wonderful facility and most students don’t mind the fee. The fee wasn’t necessarily a bad idea at the time, but its implementation was sneaky and raised legitimate questions that deserved a decent, fair and campus-wide debate.

I hope Western doesn’t make the same mistake. Have a town hall meeting, make your case and answer questions. Then let all the students vote.

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