University officials want to increase fees for students next year. While parking and Student Conduct Committee fees are understandable, the proposal to increase the recreation fee should not be approved without further explanation to the students.

Parking decals will go from $25 to $35 and parking tickets will go from $10 to $25. In a market as tight as the one for parking at USM, the increased fee for a decal is more than reasonable. Some of the increased decal money will also go to help defray the cost of a new parking garage — a benefit for all members of the University community. And ticket increases are hard to argue with — if you don’t want to pay a heftier fine, don’t park illegally.

It’s also hard to argue with the institution of a fee for those appearing before the Student Conduct Committee. If you are caught by USM Police for breaking the law, you’re lucky to only appear before the Student Conduct Committee instead of district court. Paying $25 is supposed to encourage repeat offenders to clean up their act. I doubt if repeat offenders will care much about a $25 fine, but at least the fine they pay may go to create more support for the Office of Community Standards.

The fee I have a little more trouble stomaching is the seemingly smallest fee of all — a $1.50 per credit hour increase for recreation costs. A $1.50 increase may seem small, but students who currently take 12 credits already pay $192 a year in recreation fees. If the current increase is approved, this fee will jump to $228 per year.

The problem with this fee increase is there is no increased benefit to students.

The new fee amount is needed to cover increased costs of the Sullivan Gym in Portland and Costello Sports Complex in Gorham. The 2-year-old Costello complex accounted for a $100,000 shortage in the Office of Student Development budget. Administration blamed the shortfall on increased energy costs as well as lower than expected revenue. This shortfall in revenue was expected to come from the surrounding community paying for use of the ice arena. Apparently, the deep need for an ice arena two years ago no longer exists. I do not blame the University for the lack of traffic to its new sports complex, but expecting the student body as a whole to pay for its bailout is not the answer.

If the Costello Sports Complex is experiencing a shortfall, the money should come from that facility’s own budget. Administrators either need to do a better job of attracting local business to the facility, or make cutbacks.

Don’t expect the already fee-laden student to bail out a facility most of us will never use. And if an increase in energy costs is the reason for the proposed increase in the recreation fee, then the increase should be as temporary as the jump in fuel prices.

I suspect most students won’t argue with an increase in fees when we can see what we get for our money. But the University should not use higher fees as a quick fix.

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