By SUSAN JONES
Student fees are going up starting this fall to expand mental health programs on the Pittsburgh campus and to fund a growing number of student organizations on the Pittsburgh and Johnstown campuses.
The Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee voted on May 20 to increase the student wellness fee for full-time students by $50 this fall, from $130 to $180 per semester, and another $50 starting in fall 2020. The increase for part-time students will be $25 each time, from $65 to $90 this fall and to $115 per semester by fall 2020.
Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner said the money will be used to add more counselors, including embedding counselors in residence halls. “We’re trying to determine which ones now,” he said after the meeting.
It also will be used to expand psychiatric services. Bonner said there are now only 1.5 full-time equivalent psychiatrists working with students. The other areas the added money will be used for include boosting the collegiate recovery from addiction program and developing a financial wellness and literacy program with the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.
“We’re doing this in direct response to student requests to reduce wait times and increase access to mental health services,” Bonner said.
With the additional funds the University Counseling Center will be able to extend its hours to include evenings and weekends and will adopt a stepped-care model designed to reduce wait times. It also will expand options to supplement therapist-provided services, such as therapist-assisted online programs, and develop a campus-wide Suicide Prevention Program.
“Dr. Bonner has asked me what we can do to improve counseling services for students,” Jay Darr, director of the University Counseling Center, said in a news release. Darr started at Pitt in February. “There is clearly a need to enhance our mental health services and support of students, and these additional resources will ensure improvements to these critical wellness programs.”
Activities fee climbing
The committee also voted to raise the student activities fee on the Pittsburgh campus by $20 per semester for full-time (from $80 to $100) and $6 for part-time ($24 to $30) students. The fee will be in place for the fall 2019 term.
Bonner told the committee that the fee has not increased since 2005, even though the number of student organizations has grown steadily.
Some of the funding also will go to the Pitt News, which has been solely funded by advertising since 1987, Bonner said after the meeting. Declining ad revenue, which has hit all of the newspaper industry, has forced the student-run newspaper to seek funding from the University.
Bonner said officials from the Pitt News have had ongoing discussions over the past few years with student government about getting funding. A student government task force recommended the activity fee increase, which also funds programming by Pitt Program Council, the Office of Pitt Serves and more.
Separate Johnstown increase
The Board of Trustees committee also approved an $11 increase, from $65 to $76 per semester, in the student recreation fee for full-time Pitt–Johnstown students. The $15 fee for part-time students will not change. This is the first increase in the fee since it was established in 2010. The fee hike takes effect this fall.
The Board of Trustees has delegated authority and responsibility to the Student Affairs Committee to oversee mandatory fee increases, so the full board does not need to vote on these changes.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-648-4294.