On Friday, the Student Fee Advisory Subcommittee approved a proposal to slash another $36 from the fee next year and $10 more in 2016-17. Proposed cuts to the fee total $66 in three years.
UNC’s health fee — $416 for the 2014-15 academic year — is still the highest in the UNC system. UNC’s overall fees are low compared to the rest of the system.
“We have been committed to providing great access to our students, and the number of students served is very important to us and as close to a value metric as we have in college health,” said Executive Director of Campus Health Services Mary Covington.
She said no other UNC-system health center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekend.
Both the size of the fee and the content of the programming it paid for drew concern from the Board of Governors during its annual review of fees in February, member Steven Long said.
The University responded to the board’s concerns with a $20 cut and by shifting certain programs related to sexual health and diversity — including Interactive Theater Carolina — to other funding sources.
“We’re not cutting these programs. We haven’t cut a single piece out of any of these programs. We’re just paying for them from a different source,” said Crisp, the vice chancellor for student affairs.
Crisp said student affairs has three income sources: state-appropriated money and student fees, which both come with restrictions on how they can be spent, and revenue, primarily from housing, which is unrestricted.
“We’re using our revenue lines to pay for it right now,” Crisp said. “And so there has been no change in supervision or organizational structure.”
Even though cuts to the student health fee reduce the total money available, Crisp said paying for the wellness initiatives with student affairs’ revenue is sustainable for the foreseeable future.
“Those programs are not in any danger of being cut because we can’t figure out how to pay for them,” he said.
Student health fees will also no longer contribute to the fund balance maintained by Campus Health, some of which was earmarked for a new Campus Health building.
“Anybody who spends any time in there knows that building’s at the end of its life,” Crisp said.
Covington said the Campus Health budget had been accumulating money in the fund balance for the new building for the past eight or nine years.
“So we won’t be doing that, so that the budget will be more or less equilibrated expense and revenue,” she said.
Auxiliary service buildings such as Campus Health are not paid for with state money, said Crisp. Instead, the University takes out a loan and charges students a debt fee each year until the loan is repaid.
Crisp said administrators will likely propose adding a debt fee in the next fee cycle, which will determine fees for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, in anticipation of beginning construction around that time.
The proposed structure of the $66 cut is not final yet, Crisp said. It still must pass the tuition and fee advisory task force and receive the Chancellor’s approval before reaching the Board of Governors, and it could be adjusted at any of those stages.
The future of the health fee is in flux with the adoption of the Affordable Care Act. Now that all students are required to have insurance that could pay for Campus Health visits, the fee could become obsolete.
“But what we’ve determined is there is a high premium on students never having to pull a dime out of their pocket,” Crisp said.