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UW System budget calls for fee hikes for UW-Eau Claire dorm (UPDATE)

Associated Press

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is counting on proposed fee increases in the UW System 2017-18 budget to help cover the costs related to the construction of a new dormitory and renovation of the campus’s existing Towers Hall.

The university’s proposed rate hikes would make up just part of a lengthy operating budget that the UW System’s Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on at meeting held Thursday at the UW-Madison campus. If approved, the spending plan would keep undergraduate tuition frozen in accordance with a legislative mandate now entering its fifth year.

Under the budget plan, UW System students wouldn’t face any tuition increases for another year but would still have to shell out more in most cases for fees and housing. Even so, the budget proposal would raise student fees by an average of 2.6 percent at each of the system’s four-year schools.

The increases would range from zero at UW-Green Bay to $72 at UW-Milwaukee. Students at that school would have to pay $1,474 in fees. UW-Madison’s fees would increase by $45 to $1,260.

Documents attached to the budget offer a myriad of reasons for the fee increases, including the need to cover costs for student unions, athletic scholarships and programs, child care and band costs. Fluctuating enrollment is also cited as a reason why some institutions will have less revenue than in previous years.

Among the system’s various campuses, UW-Eau Claire would see the largest jump for room-and-board fees. Those would go up by $521, or 7.5 percent, rising from $6,985 to $7,506. Of that per-student increase, $142 would go toward the new dorm and the Towers renovation.

Quincy Chapman, UW-Eau Claire director of housing and residence life, said the fees will help accomplish two goals. Most of the revenue they generate will pay off bonds issued to help finance the remodeling and new construction projects. The rest will be put into a capital-reserve account, which will be used to pay for design work on future projects.

Other parts of the fee revenues will be used to make up for lost housing and meal-plan revenue, since the construction work will force more students to live off-campus.

Chapman noted that construction on the new residence hall is expected to begin in February, just a few months after the renovation project gets underway. Because of that overlap, university officials have had to adopt plans to coordinate the planned work.

For instance, two separate areas have been identified for staging materials. A main pedestrian walkway will also be replaced, although that work will take place when classes are not in session.

Both projects are scheduled to wrap up by fall 2019.

The work on Towers Hall, for its part, will proceed one wing at a time. That will mean roughly half of the students who would normally live in the massive dorm will have either to choose a different dorm or make different living arrangements. Chapman said the university is providing housing at two nearby hotels for some residents. Other students will rely on the newly built Haymarket Landing apartment building.

The university has plans to next renovate the existing Governor’s Hall, said Chapman. The dormitory was built in the mid-1960s and is set for “a complete infrastructure upgrade,” he said. Further down the road, UW-Eau Claire will also look to build another dorm, one that would be attached to a new dining hall.

In general, the budget projects the system will spend about $6.2 billion over the next academic year, down about $10.3 million from last year. System officials expect to generate $6.1 billion in revenue — including about $1.5 billion in tuition — and use $113 million in reserves to cover the gap.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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