Western’s Board of Trustees on Monday approved a 7.5 percent reduction of mandatory student fee rates for winter quarter 2021. Taken together, the reductions amount to a decrease of $44.89 per full-time student over fees previously approved by the trustees for the 2020-21 academic year.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has led Western to transition academic programs to a primarily remote teaching and learning environment, students’ ability to take advantage of some of the services, programs, and facilities that are supported by mandatory fees has been compromised. Students and families are understandably concerned about how the fees they pay reflect this change in services.
Some of the services supported by mandatory student fees, such as counseling and health and wellness services, continue to be offered remotely. The technology fee supports access to laptops, cloud computing and critical software that is especially important in a remote learning environment.
In other instances, mandatory fee revenue supports truly “mandatory” expenditures for student-endorsed commitments, such as pledges on the bonds used to construct the Multicultural Center and Wade King Student Recreation Center, both approved by votes of the students. The Services and Activities (S & A) fee supports student programs. For the Viking Union, Associated Students, and Campus Recreation (the areas that make up the new Student Engagement unit) services will be delivered at a level consistent with safe social distancing, to allow students to be in community through clubs and activities (primarily virtual), operate student government, ensure student programs and advocacy for WWU underrepresented students, and support civic and community engagement.
In addition, building operations for continuity and maintenance are still required as well as opening of facilities to the level allowed by health and safety guidelines. Athletics and DRAC (Department Related Activities Committee) programs have also been modified and adapted to applicable health and safety guidelines.
Fee changes are further constrained by a drop in student enrollment for this academic year as a result of COVID-19. With fewer students paying fees, service areas are currently working creatively to continue delivering the important activities, infrastructure, and support that are essential to student success and the Western experience.
Despite these commitments, through the use of reserves and other forms of one-time cost-reductions, the University was able to reduce mandatory fees.
“It takes us back a few years in what the students are being charged,” said Faye Gallant, executive director, Budget and Financial Planning, said of the reduction in mandatory fees.
Trustees asked what other public universities in the state were doing on fees and Gallant noted that Western was doing more to reduce fees than other institutions. For example, Washington State University did not reduce mandatory fees during fall 2020 and Central Washington University is not reducing fees for winter quarter 2021.
Discussion also centered on slowly reopening some facilities, observing health and safety regulations, such as the Wade King Student Recreation Center, closed due to the pandemic. Planning is under way to open the recreation center to small groups of students at a time, so they can safely observe social distancing, said Linda Beckman, division director of Financial and Capital Resources, Enrollment and Student Services.
In addition, the Viking Union is now open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. While no services are available, the VU Multi-Purpose Room is being used as a study space. There is also comfortable seating throughout the 6th floor. At this time, the building is only open to Western students, staff and faculty. Face coverings and daily symptom attestations are required, physical distancing is monitored, and gatherings are limited to five people or less. No eating is allowed in the building. Greeters welcome people at the main building entrances at Garden and High streets. The Bookstore offers pickup with prearranged appointments Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here is a link for more information.