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August 10, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Student Fees Set to Rise Again

VUWSA has recommended Student Services Levy (SSL) raises should again be spent on improved services in health and counselling.

Routine increases to Victoria’s SSL annually heighten our growing mounds of student debt, unbeknown to many and largely ignored by the rest. The beginning of this academic year saw a hefty $690 taken from the pockets and future pay slips of all Victoria students, a cost deemed by 2013’s VUWSA President Rory McCourt to “contribute to academic success and a positive student experience”.

Amplifying your debt more rapidly than El Horno’s sangria jugs, questions may arise for many: what/where/who does this money go to?

Student levies are divided across a range of facilities, such as clubs and societies, recreation, and student-health services. Allocation and price-setting of the Levy is adjusted yearly based on discussion with student representatives as to areas of funding needing increasing, maintaining, or cutting. The aim is for problem areas to be targeted; for example, in 2013, the Levy adjustments were intended to see student money go further in making lines for Counselling Services shorter.

Levy-setting for the 2015 academic year will see an increase of at least 1.6 per cent; $11, in line with the present CPI inflation rate. Further increases are likely to be implemented by the University, with VUWSA’s 2013 recommendation of a two per cent increase set on the provision that VUW’s Counselling Services receive a boost in funding.

Assembled by VUWSA’s Sonya Clark and Rick Zwaan, the recommendations proposed to the Advisory Committee on the Student Services Levy (ACSSL) last Tuesday identify the wellbeing of students (maintained through Health and Counselling Services) as a consistent priority of the Levy. Prioritising of this area is constant across the voices of all areas of student representation.

Funding for the creation of a comprehensive ‘Student Representatives’ online hub was also put forward as a recommendation by VUWSA, with aims to have this implemented by early 2015.

Although not addressed in VUWSA’s official recommendations, confusion regarding ‘other costs’ is a conundrum acknowledged by both faculty-based representatives, as well as Māori and equity-based groups.

In a current breakdown of where your Levy is currently spent, this mysterious sector makes up almost 20 per cent ($106.55) of the $690 fee, and is reminiscent of those vague but unavoidable ‘booking fees’ charged online when booking concert tickets (seriously though, can someone plz tell me where those go).

These phantom dollars in fact disappear to management and administration costs, as well as some funding for VUWSA, PGSA, PSC and Ngāi Tauira.

All-inclusive services provided by VUWSA such as the Class Rep system rely on funding from the SSL since the implementation of Voluntary Student Membership in 2012.

This academic year has seen changes in the process of both raising the Levy and allocating this funding. The enactment of an online ‘budget simulator’ back in April gave all students the opportunity to have a say in the distribution of funding across student academic services.

VUWSA has described this development as aiming to “set a long-term strategy for how the Levy is spent and not to inform any particular year’s Levy setting”.

The preferences identified have, however, provided “a useful starting point” in determining priority areas for spending; taking into consideration students’ wishes for more of their dollars to go into Health and Counselling Services.

A percentage increase to SSL beyond that of inflation is yet to be set in stone. It is, however, guaranteed that the Levy once again will take from our pockets, and provide us in return with good health and an abundance of ‘the student experience’.

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