College fees fund controversial groups, speakers
Mandatory student fees that fund clubs and guest speakers are under scrutiny from the right and left at college campuses, writes Jon Marcus for the Hechinger Report. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, Republican elected officials “have called for letting students opt out of required fees that go to clubs and causes with which they disagree.”
“You have students, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum, who are funding groups that while not partisan are certainly ideological and are taking strong ideological positions,” said Drew Christensen, a Minnesota state representative who has pushed for letting students at public universities there opt out of certain fees.
Colleges can use mandatory student fees for “viewpoint neutral” groups, courts have ruled.
“This means a campus Christian organization has to take non-Christian members or the Student Democrats must admit Republicans to get a share of student fees,” writes Marcus.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has proposed making optional the so-called “allocable segregated fees” that students have to pay at University of Wisconsin campuses to support such organizations. At the flagship campus in Madison, these fees cost each student $178 per year; other “non-allocable” fees for university services including health centers and athletic facilities, which come to $1,082 per year, would not be affected. In a statement, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson pointed out that $103,000 collected in this way went last year to Sex Out Loud for such programs as a class in fetish sex.
Student fees have grown to 21 percent of college costs, and are rising faster than tuition. The median cost is $1,885 per year for public university students.