After remedying the Fitness Center’s financial crisis by creating a sustainable path for the center’s future, the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) and the administration are trying to resolve the Counseling and Wellness Center’s (CWC) impending budget crisis.
In the past couple of years, the CWC has greatly expanded the amount of services it provides to students as well as experienced an increase in the number of students it serves. This has led to a dramatic rise in expenses that has not been matched by a similar rise in revenue.
In 2010 – the last year the CWC ran a profit – the center’s total expenditures amounted to just over $175,000. This year’s expenditures are projected to amount to more than $338,000. This steep increase in costs has forced the CWC to dig into its reserves, which are quickly diminishing.The center’s reserves peaked in 2011 at $308,755. In the past three years this has been depleted to $23,070. This amount of money is not enough to cover the gap between expenses and revenue for next year, projecting the CWC to run a debt.
“We have to do something, we can’t just keep going over every year. We can’t play politics with issues surrounding health,” Carlos Santos said.
Santos is the NCSA VP for Relations and Financial Affairs. He applied for the position after seeing last semester’s Catalyst article on the CWC debt.
“I grew up with a twin sister [who] struggled for life battling Cystic Fibrosis. Watching her do homework in hospitals for years, as I stayed at home with perfect health, fully able to do the things I like to do rather than worrying about surviving made me realize how important people’s health status – physical and mental – is to their performance and daily lives,” Santos said.
Despite being aware of the impending crisis, past administrations and student fee committees have chosen not to push for a health fee increase to help mitigate the increasing gap between revenue and expenses. Each year the Student Fee Committee can advocate for a raise in the activities and services (A&S), athletic and health fees by up to 5 percent each. They can then compound this increase in revenue and distribute it among the three how they see fit. The Board of Trustees must then approve the suggestions.
Concerned with the accumulating debt of the Fitness Center, the committee chose to not raise the health fee for thepast two years. In the three years before this, all of the fees were raised, but their aggregate total was given entirely to the Fitness Center to subsidize the $90,000 loss in funding from the University of South Florida (USF).
The NCSA plans on increasing the NCSA subsidy by $23,000 – since it is currently lower than when USF was supporting them. With this increased subsidy along with increased fees, decreased hours, increasing student staff and making summer staff cuts, even conservative estimates show that the Fitness Center will have a sustainable surplus in next year’s budget.
The NCSA also plans to pay for much needed repairs to save money on maintenance in the future. The Fitness Center’s debt was, in large part, a consequence of USF pulling out their funding. The CWC likely risks facing a similar situation in the next couple years.
“USF has been increasing their health fee, however due to the contract that was negotiated they are only required to pay New College two dollars per student per credit hour,” Anne Fisher, program director of the CWC, said. “So instead of us receiving the money from the increase in their health fee they’ve been putting it into their reserve.”
It is anticipated that in the next couple of years USF will use this money to build their own health and wellness clinic. When USF pulls out the CWC will lose more $90,000 of its funding – currently just under 40 percent of its total funding. In order to prepare for this loss Santos stressed the importance of raising the fee by its full amount not just this year but for the next couple of years.New College currently has the lowest health fee in the state at $4.81 – $1.60 less than the athletic fee. Yet the New College CWC serves a much higher proportion of students than most schools.
“National standards suggest that schools have one counselor for every 1500 students,” Fisher said. “I’ve talked to administration and they understand that New College has a greater need and they have been very supportive, but I can’t keep asking for more.”
Confident that the fee increases will be passed, Santos will have an extra $1.39 per student per credit hour – a little more than $40,000 in total – to play around with in the budget next year.
The current plan is to give 80 cents of the $1.39 to the CWC, 40 cents to the Fitness Center, and the remaining 19 cents to the A&S fund to help cover the Fitness Center subsidy as well as possible plans to contract a partnership with Manatee Glens.
“We are hoping to set up a referral service with Manatee Glens. The NCSA will pay them a subsidy and students will be able to pay a small $5 or $10 copay to see a psychiatrist,” Santos said.
This is needed because under next year’s budget scenarios the CWC psychiatrist will be the first cut made.
“The first thing I would have to cut is psychiatry. I wish I didn’t have to,” Fisher said. “But if you look at the number of students the psychiatrist treats and how much it costs, that’s the least cost effective expense that we have.”
If the CWC does not receive the full fee increase Fisher said the center will also have to lose one of its postdoctoral counselors.In hopes of mitigating effects that would have negative impacts on students’ health, Santos and NCSA President Cassandra “Cassie” Corrado are looking into outside options and innovative ideas. Along with seeking a partnership with Manatee Glens, Santos is working with the Keating Foundation to get outside grants and donations.
“We can’t just resign to making cuts,” Santos said. “We have to approach this problem from different angles, and finding sources of revenue, and ways to adapt is part of that.”
Santos stressed the importance of sustaining the push for a fee increase in the next few years, saying, “We need to be talking about these things not just when there is a crisis but in the big picture. The CWC has a lot more problems that are outside our control, and it will take more than a year of fiscal rearrangements to fix things. We need discussion from administration to administration. We are going to need fee increases five years from now when the students in office weren’t even here for what’s happening now.”