Committee drops SMPA fee issue

Majors in the School of Media and Public Affairs will pay an extra $1,000 starting next fall, as part of a capital fund to continually update technology in the new SMPA building. The school will also begin admitting incoming freshman starting with next year’s freshman class.

SMPA Dean Jean Folkerts said students admitted to the University will apply directly the school, which offers programs in political communication, journalism and electronic media.

In the past, students applied to the school after their freshman year.

“(Admitting freshmen) allows us to be more competitive with schools such as Syracuse, that admits students into their school as freshmen,” Folkerts said. “If you’re a freshman and you want to either go to Syracuse or GW, and you really want to go to GW, but at Syracuse you got into the journalism or public policy school . then you have to make a decision.”

Folkerts said the University will still allow students to apply for the program after their freshman year.

The decision to admit freshmen into the program prompted members of the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students to drop a resolution critical of the SMPA fee, said Professor David McAleavey, co-chair of the committee. The resolution, which will be withdrawn in Friday’s Faculty Senate meeting, called for a tuition increase for all students rather than charging only SMPA students to cover the added financial burden the SMPA building brings, McAleavey said.

McAleavey said the committee dropped the resolution because the fee will be announced to all freshmen when they apply to the school.

The Student Association passed a resolution against the SMPA fee last year after students expressed concern that charging only SMPA students would discourage students from applying to the program. Students also signed a petition saying it was unfair to charge students for a building used by many departments.

Folkerts said she was also concerned that the new fee, or tuition differential, would discourage students from applying to the program, but she said that has not been the case.

“It hasn’t seemed to have much impact, she said. “We had more applicants last fall after the publicity about the fee than ever before.”

There are about 250 students in the program, Folkerts said.

Folkerts said only SMPA students will be charged because the fee goes into capital fund to update technology in the building and service equipment used primarily in SMPA classes. She said she has not decided yet whether students with a minor in the department will pay the fee.

“Our facilities and programs are increasingly expensive,” Folkerts said. “Students are going to work in a multimedia world and we can’t pretend that it’s not there.”

Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and special projects, said the fee will provide needed capital for technology in the school.

“My personal feeling is that since a relatively small number of students are using very sophisticated equipment in the Media and Public Affairs building . the additional cost that’s represented probably should be borne in the main by the people who are using it,” Linebaugh said.

Linebaugh said a user-based fee was the fairest way to distribute the fees for students in SMPA.

Some SMPA students said they understand that the fee is necessary, but think it should be shared by all students.

“I don’t feel good about (paying more),” said sophomore Jeff Nestler, a political communication major. “Since all students are using the building, then all students should have to foot the bill.”

SA Senator Josh Rothstein (U-CSAS), a political communication major, said any additional fees are unfair.

“I think that it’s hard enough to pay tuition . to tack on an extra $1,000 doesn’t make it any easier,” Rothstein said.

Others said they have mixed feelings.

“It’s pretty ridiculous because we already pay so much money to the University,” said sophomore Nick Barnaby, a political communication major. “But it is also understandable because they did pay a lot of money to build a building that is effectively our building.”

“Although on the face you can say it’s very unfair that just because of what we choose to do at the University we have to pay extra,” said junior Laura Marsh, a political communication major. “Underneath of that we do have our own building and it does have a lot of equipment.”

Marsh said the new equipment is part of the reason she became an electronic media minor.

McAleavey said the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students could re-address the way the University disperses the cost of the SMPA building if students express a concern – something that has not happened since last year.

“It’s not really in the interest of the committee . to harp on something the students are not interested in,” he said.
Russ Rizzo contributed to this report.

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