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TSUS university officials discuss impacts of distance learning fees, fee collection

News Editor

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 13:11

Distance Learning Education and Fee Collection were the main topics of discussion among university officials across the Texas State University System in the Student Services Meeting as a part of the Board of Regents quarterly meeting Thursday.

Campus officials gathered to address several issues within student services including SGA officer compensation, Greek life Policy, residence life discipline processes and degree audit sharing.

Led by Frank Parker, Ph.D., vice president for student services at SHSU, the discussion moved to focus on ways for the university to overcome monetary losses due to issues with distance learning fees.

“We have a majority of our distance learning students within a certain radius,” Parker said. “A number of them show up and use facilities that they don’t pay for. For instance they pay no Lowman Student Center fee, recreational sports fee or health center fee.”

According to Parker, the university runs into problems because students are taking advantage of services they do not pay for. As a result, while the number of distance learning students rises, the university is losing about $1 million.

These issues are not limited to SHSU, as Senior Associate Provost at Lamar University Kevin Smith, Ph.D., explained. The fees can also contribute to denying student of certain services on campus.

“If a student lives on campus or takes one hour of face to face courses, they pay [facility fees],” Kevin Smith said. “If a student lives off campus and is completely online, they don’t use those services. If they want to use them, they have to pay. However we make up for those by collecting a distance learning fee.”

However he offered a hybrid solution to the problem by dedicating a residence hall to all online students to balance those who want to take all online courses while still taking advantage of campus services. In this way, he said distance learning fees would be waived while students would pay for services.

Parker expressed concern about students missing face-to-face interaction with other students and professors in the classroom.

Kevin Smith countered Parker, saying that technology is the future of education.

“What happens when class is over is students walks out and checks Facebook, texts and emails,” Kevin Smith said. “They’re not interacting in the chat sense they did years ago, but they’re interacting online.”

While officials did not come to any decisions regarding distance learning fees, SHSU Associate Vice President for Student Services Keith Jenkins emphasized the need to maintain balance between providing a college culture and an online education.

Officials also discussed fee collecting models for the TSUS. According to Parker, two Texas colleges collect only two major fees: tuition and a general fee. After that, the general service fee is divided among different organizations and departments.

However, the general consensus was to continue collecting tuition along with separate fees for various services and departments.

“I’m concerned of the talk of these two-fee models because students don’t get to see where their money is going,” Parker said. “…Those fees help provide a whole university experience because of the services and programs they provide. If you divvy it up, you take away from that.”

Parker maintained that the changes in fee collection were “just talk” at this point.

In other business, TSUS university officials reached a consensus not to endorse a proposed Wellcard Health Discount Program offered to the TSUS by an outside service provider.

Under the program, it would be a $2 cost per transaction with a shared dollar going back to the TSUS.

 Vice President for Student Affairs at Texas State University Joanne Smith called the credentials of these companies into question based on a report from the health center at Texas State.

“It could provide benefits for students, but we have no idea of whether the people we would be working with are credible or not,” Joanne Smith said. “It also may encourage utilization of labs and services that may be unnecessary.”

For example, under the program, cardholders would have to pay an initial $35 fee per year in addition to another $35 for a consultation resulting in a prescription.

Parker noted that the costs of the proposed program would outweigh the benefits.

“Our director of the health center analyzed the proposal and came to the conclusion that it’s very similar to what we have that would create issues for some of our students and advised that we leave this alone,” Parker said.

Officials also discussed ways to help students transfer courses between universities within the system by sharing degree auditing data and agreed to work with each other and the Banner system of future plans.

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