LAFAYETTE — Campus improvement projects outlined in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s master plan could get a financial boost if students agree to an increase in fees.
The university filed a request with the University of Louisiana System to ask students to vote on a new $7.50 per credit hour fee — that would be capped at 15 hours or $112.50 — to help fund the projects.
The system board meets Tuesday. If the board approves the request, students will vote on the measure at campus elections Oct. 8-9.
If students approve it, the new fee would be assessed starting with the spring 2013 semester. The proposal was approved by student leaders who represent each college on campus.
The new fee could generate an estimated $2.7 million annually, according to the university’s proposal.
Students returned to the campus Monday for the fall semester and some said despite paying extra tuition for fall classes, they’d support an additional fee.
The extra money is worth it to help improve the campus, said Travis Butler, a junior majoring in kinesiology.
“You’re paying for your experience or someone else’s experience,” said Butler, 21, of Baton Rouge. “Once it’s your school, it’s always your school. You’re always a part of the university.”
Butler said his brother began classes Monday as a freshman.
“I’ll support anything that he can benefit from,” Butler said.
A fee increase of about $50 or $60 is more agreeable, said education major Meghan Romero, 23, of Maurice.
The junior said she’s taking 15 credit hours this semester.
“I paid about $600 more this semester,” she said.
She said she’ll likely pick up more hours at her part-time job to help cover her expenses since her financial aid covers less than $800 of her tuition.
Students are considered full-time when they take a minimum of 12 hours, which costs $2,687 in tuition and fees. Students pay an additional $5 in fees for each additional credit hour.
University president Joseph Savoie was unavailable for comment Monday.
Master plan projects could begin as soon as the spring semester, said Aaron Martin, university communications and marketing director.
The first projects likely would be smaller initiatives such as reducing campus traffic with new biking and walking paths and improvements to sidewalks and bus stops, Martin said.
Improvements to the quadrangle, a frequent gathering spot for students, and the creation of a 24-hour study hall are also projects that could begin next semester, he said.
Renovations to the campus’ student union are under way and that project transformed the existing study hall into a temporary cafeteria.
The university begins its new academic year with budgetary challenges after the campus lost nearly 43 percent in state funding in the past five fiscal years, Savoie wrote in a blog addressed to faculty and staff dated Aug. 1.
“As a result of another state cut and cost increases beyond our control, this fiscal year, which began July 1, we face an $18 million shortfall,” Savoie wrote.
According to the blog, some initiatives the university is undertaking this year to offset the shortfall involve: freezing 120 unfilled positions; reductions in spending on operating services, supplies and travel budgets; and seeking partnerships to remove the costs of several economic development outreach centers.
The university plans to hire Lafayette Consolidated Government to manage its student transit system starting in the spring semester, according to a university news release issued Monday.
This semester, the university has implemented a “formal” bus schedule with buses leaving the parking lot at Cajun Field in 10-minute intervals during the “peak morning hours” and opened a new pay parking lot at St. Mary and Cherry streets, the release stated.
Earlier this month, the university announced it is also seeking a private company to manage parking on campus.