The $150 fee, JSU’s first in recent memory, will be used to pay for the campus bus system, student health care, activities, facility improvements and wireless Internet upgrades, officials said.
“Everyone else seems to be doing that too,” Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan said, adding that fees are another way for schools to generate needed revenue. “We never like to increase the cost to our students.”
Tuition, meanwhile, will increase by 6.79 percent at JSU this fall, $18 per credit hour, or about $432 more per year for a full-time undergraduate student taking 12 credit hours each semester. Campus housing costs will increase by 3 percent, and prospective students will pay an extra $5 to apply.
Trustees said they were forced to raise tuition to maintain the quality of education, but several board members expressed concern about the increases. Board president Jim Bennett said if the trend continues, only the wealthy will be able to afford to attend college.
“That is a sad and terrible future that I see if we keep increasing tuition over and over,” said Bennett, who attended Jacksonville State in the 1950s. “When I came here I came because I could afford to do so and a lot of us did.”
JSU has long made a point of charging no student fees in addition to tuition, a method many colleges and universities use to raise money from students for specific purposes. Officials said the campus transit system needed the money in part because a $1.9 million federal grant used to launch it in 2009 had expired.
The tuition increase approved Monday was JSU’s fifth in five years. The increase will be used, in part, to fund a 2 percent raise for instructors and professors. That increase mirrors a pay increase for K-12 teachers approved by the Alabama House of Representatives last week (The Senate could take up the issue of the pay raise as early as this week.). JSU trustees said they felt their faculty deserved the same increase though the Legislature didn’t provide funding for it.
A full-time, in-state undergraduate student attending JSU in 2013-14 will pay $6,792 per year to take 12 credit hours in two semesters. In 2007, the year before the recession began, an in-state undergrad student taking the same number of hours would have paid $4,056.
Tuition has steadily increased since 2008, when the nationwide economic recession struck. Since that time, the cost of attending JSU has increased by 41 percent while funding from the state government has declined by 34.4 percent, officials said. To make up for the loss of state funding, JSU has to charge students more, trustees said.
The 2014 budget approved in the House last week would give JSU an a increase of $492,962, or 1.4 percent, from the state’s Education Trust Fund. Officials said that was canceled out, though, by a $725,000 required increase in the institution's contribution to retirement funds for its employees.
Other Alabama colleges and universities have also increased tuition as the state decreased funding in recent years. Last week, Auburn University approved a 4.5 percent increase and Auburn Montgomery increased its tuition by 8 percent.
One JSU trustee, state Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, called on the state to restructure its tax system to lend more stability to the education budget and JSU.
“We need a change,” said Figures, who serves as minority leader in the Republican-controlled Senate. “We are all going to have to come together as one.”
Figures said that boards of trustees from each state-supported college or university in Alabama should unite to petition the Legislature for change.
“The root of the problem is how the Legislature funds the Education Trust Fund,” Figures said.
The tuition increase will boost the university’s projected tuition revenue by about $2 million, to roughly $49.2 million.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.