LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s master plan for future development has a new funding stream — a $7.50 per credit hour fee approved by students this week.
The fee, which caps at 15 hours or $112.50, is dedicated to projects identified in the university’s master plan document, which was developed last year by Architects Southwest with input from the campus and local community.
Online student voting was held Monday and Tuesday with 1,537 voting in favor of the fee and 1,330 voting against it, said Ashley Mudd, president of the Student Government Association. She said another 97 students submitted a ballot but did not cast a decision.
The 2,964 ballots submitted, which includes the 97 empty ballots, represents about 18 percent of the campus’s nearly 16,700 students.
Mudd said the voter turnout is the second highest in the Student Government Association’s history and the largest for a referendum vote. She said the highest turnout of about 3,500 votes was logged in spring 2006 for a student government leader election that had four “parties” on the ballot.
Student leaders will meet Monday with university President Joseph Savoie to discuss the first projects, which Mudd said could be smaller projects such as sidewalk or lighting improvements.
“We’d like to begin with smaller projects so students can start to see the changes quickly,” Mudd said.
Six students will be appointed to the campus planning committee and help prioritize future projects, she said.
The university estimates that the fee will generate about $2.7 million annually.
Accounting graduate student Clarence Moses, 27, said he supported the fee.
“The college is growing and we should expand the campus so we can compete with other universities,” he said.
Mudd said she’s heard from some students who didn’t support the new fee because they didn’t think they could afford it.
Pyschology major Kyla Davis viewed the fee as an investment in the university’s future.
“I’m going to graduate school here and have a son I think will go here,” Davis said. “It also will benefit other students in the future. I would have liked the same thing done for me when I started at UL.”
Students’ approval of the fee helps move up the timing of master plan projects, said Aaron Martin, university communications and marketing director.
“I think it will also rally the community, alumni and businesses to get involved and support the master plan by seeing that students have a vested interest in it,” he said.
The master plan includes major new construction projects in the University Research Park and the former Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center on St. Landry Street, which the university is still interested in acquiring.
However, Mudd said the fee will likely be used for more student-centered projects, such as addressing parking issues and improving safety through better sidewalks, new bike paths and lighting.
“Part of the master plan is developing the university along St. Mary Boulevard that includes decreasing lanes on campus to make it safer and down St. Mary looking into a parking garage,” Mudd said.
She said the master plan will evolve as the university continues to develop.
Students have already begun to voice other major needs that could be incorporated into the plan, including a 24-hour study hall.
Students previously had 24-hour access to a study hall in Guillory Hall, but the building is being used as a temporary cafeteria during the renovation and expansion of the Student Union.
The union upgrade, funded by two separate fees approved by students, is expected to be complete in 2014.
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