ASUU passes study-abroad fee

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Students will likely have to pay a $3 fee each semester to subsidize study-abroad trips, depending on the vote of the U Board of Trustees on Nov. 12.

The Associated Students of the University of Utah General Assembly passed a bill in support of the new fee last night, although representatives disagreed on whether students should have to pay for other students’ international experiences. Twenty-nine representatives voted in favor of it, eight opposed it and four abstained. The ASUU Senate passed the same bill last Thursday.

“It’s a great opportunity for students in need, to not only give them the competitive edge now, but help (the U) in the future to be on par with other programs,” Student Body President Spencer Pearson said.

If the trustees approve the bill, freshmen and sophomores, as well as first- and second-year graduate students, would start paying the fee next fall, because sponsors said they would be more likely to benefit than upperclassmen.

Everyone would eventually pay the fee, but only students paying would be eligible to apply for funding, which would be distributed by a committee — largely composed of students — depending on needs of applicants.

Some representatives questioned whether having a student committee allocate the money would be fair, but Pearson said the committee might look at applicants anonymously.

Administrators have agreed to match $1 for every $3 paid, which would go into an endowment for study-abroad scholarships. ASUU leaders said U President Michael Young is considering donating part of the money raised by the school’s capital campaign to the endowment.

The money from students would go into an annual fund expected to generate at least $175,000 to be distributed each year once all students are paying. The money will be used to provide need- and merit-based scholarships for students to study abroad or participate in internships or service internationally. The endowment is expected to amount to about $1.7 million in 20 years.

Pearson said hundreds of students would benefit from scholarships once the program was running.

Although proponents of the bill said a survey taken last spring indicated that 60 percent of freshman supported the fee, opponents said the student body as a whole is not in favor of it.

“This doesn’t represent what the students want,” said University College Representative Miles Petty. “The survey said 60 percent of (all) students are opposed, and to say 60 percent are for it is misleading. They’re opposed to it — they don’t want it.”

Representative Jim Bullough of the College of Engineering said students shouldn’t have to pay for costs that only benefit individuals.

“I don’t feel that everyone in the university should have to subsidize my fees…and pay for my expensive (engineering) equipment,” Bullough said.

Megan Bitner, a representative for the College of Humanities, said all students pay fees for things they never use, such as athletic fees or fine arts fees for students who don’t attend those events.

“It’s more beneficial to pay a little bit of money even if there are some who can’t benefit,” Bitner said.

These small fees add up over time, University College Representative Steven Dien countered.

Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs John Francis said many colleges now include an international requirement for graduation and the fee will help more students be able to afford going abroad. He said the fee could also help the U get federal support for study-abroad programs.

“This would make our school more known throughout the world,” said College of Business Representative Elyse Woodbury. “And it would give students opportunities to enrich the community and school we belong to.”

[email protected]