By SHANNON O. WELLS
To meet the growing demands for wellness services and the proactive costs associated with Pitt’s Recreation and Wellness Center, student wellness fees are increasing for full-time and part-time students on the Oakland campuses.
The Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees passed a resolution at its June 17 meeting that increases the student welfare fee for full-time undergraduate and graduate students by $50 for the 2022-23 school year and an additional $50 the following year. Part-time students will see a $25 increase both years.
This will increase the welfare fee for full-time students from $460 per year ($230 per semester) to $560 per year ($280 per semester).
The fee will help cover staff costs to meet increased demand for counselling, medical and other wellness services in anticipation of the approximately 270,000 square foot campus recreation and wellness center planned for the site of the former O’Hara garage and LRDC building.
Construction is expected to begin this summer and be completed by fall 2024, when a separate student fee dedicated to paying off the center’s debt service will be instituted. This amount has not been fixed.
While most of the cost of the center will be covered by student health and welfare fees, the plan also calls for faculty and staff to join with a membership fee, an idea that is still under consideration. said David DeJong, Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations, and Kenyon Bonner, Vice Provost for Student Affairs.
Following the student affairs committee meeting, Bonner said Pitt’s current budget model does not support funding for the new facility, making it necessary to approach the board of trustees to raise fees.
“In addition to these centre-related things, we still have our current demand on our counseling centre, our student health service, and we want to make sure that we continue to retain and recruit our talented staff of doctors, nurses, clinicians and psychiatrists to continue the success we have had (with respect to) the types and quality of services we provide to our students. It was really important to us,” he said. “This building is just a building, but the concept really ties into our commitment to wellness and wellness, and ensuring that our students thrive when they are here and when they leave.”
It’s important to raise fees now for the next wellness center so that adequate staff can be hired this year and in 2023. “We can’t wait until the summer to hire these staff,” said Bonner. The roughly 14 professional staff hired primarily this year will support “existing campus recreation center programs, services and students” until the new center is complete.
Highlighting the center’s role as a crucial hub that “connects upper and lower campus,” Bonner said it provides “a space where we can all come together and engage in activities that we know support our well-being, our health and our health as a community”.
Resolving the fee increase is therefore “another step in this process to move this project forward,” he said. Calling the resolution an opportunity to be transparent with students about the cost of the center and its initial funding plan, Bonner said it is “not uncommon for many institutions like us in terms of extracurricular facilities funded by scholarship fees”.
The following is a sample of the 2022-23 student activity/recreation and welfare fees per academic year at other ACC institutions, based on an average of 15 credit hours per semester, where Wellness charges are separate from health plans/charges:
Wake Forest: $582
University of North Carolina: $258.44, plus $70 per year for Ramshead Rec Center debt
North Carolina State: $218, plus $144 a year for Carmichael Gym debt
state of florida: $192.90
Noting that students have provided “a lot of positive support” to him and his student affairs colleagues regarding the wellness center plan, Bonner said they remain “open to conversations and feedback” from students on costs. . “We will continue to be mindful of these expenses and costs as we move forward with the center as well as our other wellness services.”
Charging fees to faculty and staff members is an option that Bonner said is “always on the table,” with conversations between members of the Staff Council and Faculty Assembly, Office of Human Resources of Pitt and others.
“We are still working to decide what makes the most sense in terms of cost and membership structure,” he said, adding that membership fees assessed by faculty and staff are not rare in universities. “We thought…if faculty and staff use the facilities that students pay for, it would only be fair and just that there be a fair share of the costs of using and accessing the facilities.”
Other Pitt campuses will also see fee increases related to health and wellness — for full-time students only — starting this fall.
Greensburg Campus: Health service fees will increase from $30 to $40 per student. Bonner attributed the rising costs of operating health center services on the Greensburg campus to a combination of increased demand and better awareness.
Johnstown Campus: Recreation fees will increase from $76 to $98 per student, in part due to a new esports program.
Since no health-related services are currently offered on the Titusville campus, the $50 health fee will be waived there.
“Like many colleges and universities across the country, we are seeing increased demand on our counseling centers,” Bonner said. There’s less stigma around student mental health, he said, and “we’ve opened up our services and done more outreach to encourage more students to use these services to support student wellbeing. students”.
The COVID pandemic is another undeniable factor, including the need to test and recruit and retain doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners. “A lot of that is just the cost associated with increased demand and the need to add additional staff to support (that), and then some of those costs are associated with changes to our public health environment that our campuses react.
Shannon O. Wells is a staff writer for the University Times. Join it at [email protected].
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