24.3 Purposes and Uses
(Last Modified on December 28, 2016)
Most student fees have specific purposes that govern their assessment and use. Student fees should be managed and accounted for in a manner that will reflect the proper usage of these fees. The business purpose and usage of the various student fees will be discussed below.
24.3.1 Mandatory Student Fees
(Last Modified on March 15, 2018)
Student activity fees, technology fees, and the Special Institutional Fee are the three basic mandatory fees charged by all colleges and universities. Other student service related mandatory fees charged by most institutions include health fees, athletic fees, and transportation fees. Many institutions also charge facility fees that are used to support rental/lease payments on Public Private Venture (PPV) projects.
Institutions should refer to Section 18.104.22.168 of the BOR Policy Manual for guidance on waivers of mandatory fees.
Student Activity Fees
Student activity fees are collected for the purpose of supporting programs and services affecting all aspects of student life. Correspondingly, the expenditure of these fees should be student centered with the students being the primary participants or beneficiaries.
As with all institutional funds, USG policies and procedures must be considered when expenditures are made from student activity funds. Budgets allocated to student organizations and expended under the authority of the student group represent a shared responsibility between institutional officers, the respective student group and the student fee committee. Thus, it is the responsibility of these groups to ensure that expenditures made are an appropriate use of student activity funds in line with applicable State and USG policies and procedures.
Student activity fee revenues may be used to support a broad spectrum of student related services, most commonly in the areas of social and entertainment activities, intramural sports, student publications and student government associations. While it is not the intent of this section to provide an exhaustive list of USG rules and regulations for expenditures, the following guidance is provided on expenditures of student activity fees.
Appropriate expenditures of Student Activity fees would include:
- Hiring and paying travel for performers- Meals and travel expenses are subject to per-diem and non-employee travel regulations (BPM Section 19.9). If all costs of performing group, including travel expenses, are included as part of a lump-sum contract, travel regulations would not apply.
- Consultant expenses.
- Prizes/awards from raffles-Participation in the raffle must be available to all students. Raffles/lotteries may be lawfully conducted without a license if participants are allowed to enter at no cost. For these events, individual prizes must be de minimis in value (not to exceed $100). If licenses are obtained and raffle tickets are sold, gifts are limited to funds collected in the raffle.
- Food and refreshments for student group events-Appropriate if event is open to all students within specific identifiable group.
- Promotional Items-Associated with promotional events for students, such as student recruitment. Acceptable items would be T-shirts, mugs, plaques, flash drives, etc. Individual value should not exceed $50. Cash awards and gift cards are strongly discouraged. Should the institution determine the use of cash awards or gift cards is the most appropriate action, strong internal controls must be in place to account for the funds and avoid theft. The institution may be subject to additional prohibitions on promotional items resulting from athletic conference regulations.
- Performance Based Awards-Considered acceptable if student has provided some service and/or performed some function to receive award (e.g., writing contests, dance contests, and various student skills competitions). Award amounts may vary based on value of service/performance, not to exceed $500.
- Staff salaries and benefits-Appropriate if included in budget as reviewed by student fee advisory committee. The personal services supported by these fees must be directly related to support and administration of the activities funded by the fee. Institutions are encouraged to minimize the use of student activity fee revenue to support staff salaries and benefits for student support administrators where general operating funds are available.
- Employee travel (including student employees)-Appropriate, but subject to State travel regulations (BPM Section 4). For student employees, the institution will have to determine if student employee travel is related to whether the student in question is traveling as a student or an employee to determine which section of travel regulations apply.
- Event costs-Appropriate to stage events (e.g., decorating event area, printing programs, advertising).
- Furniture, fixtures, equipment
- Lease payments for Public Private Ventures if fee was assessed to fund service “rental” payments. See section on Facility fees.
- Other operating costs-Normal supply, maintenance and utility costs.
Student Activity fees should NOT be expended on the following:
- Donations should not be funded by student activity fees. Proceeds from student group fund-raisers for a charitable purpose should be accounted for in an agency fund.
- Scholarships- Prohibited unless based on some performance measure or service requirement. Performance measures would require some academic or student activity skill to be displayed (e.g., athletics, music, literary, math, etc.). Simply being an enrolled student would not qualify as a performance measure.
- Tips-Unless covered by State travel guidelines or service contract.
- Faculty salaries and benefits-Student activity fees should not be used to directly fund instructional costs of credit hour courses.
- Intercollegiate Athletic program costs-Normally these costs should be paid from Athletic fees. Possible exceptions could be for support groups, such as dance teams or cheerleaders, and club sports, if included in the budget as reviewed by the student fee advisory committee. Costs of intramural/recreational athletic programs are allowable.
- Student employee recognition luncheons/meals-Not allowable if provided for an individual or a specific group. Student employees may receive food if partaking in an event open to all students and student employees are at function as a “student”. See bullet item 4 under appropriate expenditures.
- Prospective Student travel-Not allowable unless certain conditions are met as outlined in BPM Section 19.9.
- Alcoholic beverages or any illegal substances.
- Individual or club memberships in civic organizations
- Political campaigns or events
If a specific Public Private Venture project is funded with a student activity fee, those fees should be designated to support project costs, such as lease payments and expenses for project operations as outlined in the original or amended proforma. See section on Facility Fees below.
Technology fees are charged by all institutions. Financial accounting for technology fees is addressed in BPM Section 2.9. There are two basic principles governing use of student technology fees:
Student technology fees should be used to supplement normal levels of technology spending. Institutions should be able to provide evidence that overall institution technology expenditures clearly reflect that expenditures based upon fee revenues are above and beyond normal levels.
The focus of student technology fees should be on technology related to either academic outcomes or instructional objectives. Distinctions should be drawn between expenditures for administrative applications or scientific and laboratory equipment, and instructional technology. Technology fee revenues should be used for the primary benefit of students by:
- Directing expenses to assist students in meeting educational objectives of their academic programs;
- Ensuring that there are sufficient campus software licenses, so that students have easy access to technological tools needed in their chosen disciplines;
- Ensuring that computer labs used by students are adequately equipped and have sufficient network bandwidth and appropriate internet access;
- Providing training for students in the use of computing and networking resources, when needed. Generally, faculty and staff training should be paid for from general operating funds, but faculty and staff may avail themselves of student training sessions if space permits.
- Leveraging with other funds to yield greater resources for students; (Technology fee revenues may be combined with another fund source(s) to make purchases that will enhance technological resources provided to students).
- Providing new staffing only when it will clearly add documented value for students. Under no circumstances may technology fees be used to fund existing positions that would otherwise be cut from an operational budget, nor should technology fees be used to fund general computing and networking positions that have a significant administrative or research support component.
Generally, technology fees should not be used to acquire general supplies or software or hardware products for faculty use. General operating funds should be used for these purposes, unless there is a demonstrated and direct value to students which would justify use of technology fees.
Also, technology fees should not be used to purchase technological resources that will be used for administration purposes. System hardware, software, and other related costs that do not have a direct impact on academic outcomes and/or instructional objectives should be paid from general operating funds.
Special Institutional Fee
The Special Institutional Fee is a general purpose fee charged system-wide by the Board of Regents at all institutions. This fee was established in 2009 (BOR Minutes, June 2009) to ensure sufficient funding to support ongoing academic excellence. Since this is a general purpose fee, institutions may use it to support any level of operations that would be appropriate for any educational and general fund source.
Athletic fees are collected for the purpose of funding USG institutions’ intercollegiate athletic programs. Athletic fee charges vary by institution depending on the number of intercollegiate sports offered and conference and association affiliations. The primary purpose of athletic fees should be to fund travel and operating expenses directly related to intercollegiate sporting events, provide scholarships for student athletes, and fund athletic staff salaries. For institutions that have Athletic Associations, portions or all of the athletic fees are transferred to the related Athletic Associations to supplement funding of athletic scholarships and related expenses. This type of arrangement must be pre-approved by the Board Treasurer, Chief Fiscal Officer and governed by a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the USG institution and the Athletic Association. This MOU outlining responsibilities must be on file and available upon request.
The management of athletic programs is addressed in Section 4.5 of the BOR Policy Manual. The amount of student fee revenue that may be raised to support an intercollegiate athletic program is determined by several factors, including conference affiliation, fundraising, and total expenditures of the program. The full regulations can be found in Section 4.5.8 of the BOR Policy Manual.
If a specific Public Private Venture athletic project is funded with a mandatory student fee, those fees should be designated to support that project’s lease payments and other required project costs. See Facility Fees below. This requirement is further outlined in BPM Section 25.6.2.
Health fees are collected to provide health services for students. Health services offered by institutions vary depending on the size of the institution and the planned use of the fees. Generally, health fees are used to support costs of campus health centers. In some instances, health fees cover most, if not all, costs of services provided. This includes staffing, supplies, utilities, and other overhead. There are instances where the health fee is supplemented by voluntary fees for desired clinical services outside of the scope of the mandatory health fee. These voluntary fees may be paid directly by students or through billing of the student’s insurance. However, a student’s insurance should not be billed for those services available at no cost through the mandatory health fee. Institutions may choose to contract with a healthcare service provider to outsource the provision of health services to students. When this is the case, the health fee should be tied to the cost incurred by the provider, as opposed to contract rates being set as a percentage of health fee revenue.
If a specific Public Private Venture health project is funded with a mandatory student fee, those fees should be designated to support that project’s lease payments and other required project costs. See Facility Fees below. This requirement is further outlined in BPM Section 25.6.2.
Mandatory transportation fees at some institutions are charged to provide students access to an institution’s transit system or a public transit system, while at others, this fee may be identified as a parking fee to provide access to campus parking for students. Transportation and parking are generally managed as auxiliary enterprises and the student fees associated with those activities should be used to support those auxiliary functions. BPM Section 15 provides guidance on the expenditure of auxiliary enterprise funds.
If a specific Public Private Venture transportation/parking project is funded with a mandatory student fee, those fees should be designated to support that project’s lease payments and other required project costs. See Facility Fees below. This requirement is further outlined in BPM Section 25.6.2.
Facility fees are generally charged in conjunction with Public Private Venture (PPV) projects whereby students are assessed a fee to fund the cost of operations and service capital lease payments on a specific facility, such as a parking deck, wellness center, athletic facility, or student center. The name of the facility fee varies across institutions and generally corresponds to the project being supported (e.g. Student Center Fee). PPV projects have special reporting requirements described in BPM Section 25. In some cases, facility fees will be assessed independently as a standalone fee. In other cases, some of the mandatory student fees described above could have a facility component. In situations where the facility portion is only a component of the fee, the PPV reporting should not include the costs associated with running specific programming or personnel not dedicated to managing or operating the facility. Housing and food service fees (described in the following section) may also have a facility component.
Facility fees should typically be charged to students who have access to the facility constructed. Therefore, there will likely be instances where these fees should only be assessed to a certain segment of students. Assessing a facility fee to students who do not have access to the facility might not be an appropriate or prudent decision. Section 22.214.171.124 of the BOR Policy Manual provides guidance on mandatory fee waivers. Also, if there are any questions about the students to be charged or served by a fee funded facility, please contact the Office of Strategy & Fiscal Affairs.
Section 25 of the BPM discusses allowable expenses of facility fee revenue. Facility fees should be used to pay base rent, additional rents, and operational costs on the project for which the fee was assessed. Base rent covers the principal and interest on capital lease obligations. Additional rent is the renewal and replacement reserve that is maintained by the foundation’s trustee for repairs and renovation as needed to keep the facility operational. Operational costs should be limited to costs directly related to the project, such as maintenance, utilities, supplies and dedicated personnel. Facility fees are not allowed to be spent on capital expenditures. Instead, these capital expenditures must be covered by the renewal and replacement reserve held by the Foundation.
Historically, the foundation sponsored PPV projects supported by facility fees are designed to generate a 1.0-1.05 coverage ratio on a yearly basis. Georgia Higher Education Facilities Authority (GHEFA) funded projects are also developed with very tight margins. Anything above a 1.0 coverage is effectively the excess earnings generated from revenues after disbursements for rental payments and operating costs. Institutions are required to hold these funds in reserve to cover project shortfalls that may occur at a later date.
Institutions should use caution in using these reserve funds other than for project-specific needs. The Office of Strategy & Fiscal Affairs must approve use of reserves equal to ten percent (10%) or greater of the existing net cash/project reserve balance in any fiscal year. The goal of the System Office is to maintain sufficient project reserves to meet unexpected financial challenges with the project. This requirement is detailed in BPM Section 25.6.6.
After appropriate reserves are attained, institutions are encouraged to consider reducing fees to a point where the profitability margin is minimal in order to pass some cost savings back to the students. At the point in time when reserves are sufficient to retire remaining lease payments, the fee associated with a particular project should be reduced or eliminated.
24.3.2 Elective Student Fees
(Last Modified on June 1, 2023)
Elective fees, unlike mandatory fees, generally only apply selectively to students based on the purpose of the fee(s). The purpose of assessing an elective fee is to fund specific, unique costs that are the result of an action, election, or decision made by the student. Elective fees are not intended to supplement general educational activities inherent in the instruction of students. Nor are they a way to supplant state appropriations or tuition dollars. Expenditures of elective fee revenues should be aligned with the costs created by the action, election, or decision that prompted the assessment of the fee.
Section 126.96.36.199 of the BOR Policy Manual provides that institution presidents are authorized to approve elective fees. However, the Policy Manual provides the following exceptions to presidential authority to exclusively approve elective fees:
“Any fee or special charge that is required to be paid by any standard subgroup of students based on grade level or previous credit hours earned shall undergo the same approval process as mandatory fees.” This means the fee must be reviewed and voted on by a student fee committee, be submitted with the level of documentation required of mandatory fees, and be approved by the Board of Regents annually. An example would be a fee charged to all freshman or all students with less than 90 credit hours earned; and
“Any elective fee or special charge that is required to be paid by all students in a specific degree program or in a specific course, with the exception of laboratory fees and supplemental course material fees shall be approved by the Board, but shall not require review by a student fee committee.” Fees falling under this exception to presidential authority are discussed in the Other Course/Degree Program Fees section below.
Some common types of elective fees are housing fees, food service fees, and supplemental material course fees. Elective fees and special charges are reviewed on an annual basis to determine use, effectiveness and appropriateness for continuation.
Housing fees are paid by students to live in on-campus housing facilities. Housing fees are generally elective in nature, however, for sound educational reasons, a president may require students to live on campus with prior notification to the Chancellor as outlined in Policy 9.8.2. Housing fees must be approved each year by the Board Treasurer, Chief Fiscal Officer
Housing fees associated with state owned facilities and PPV projects are recorded as rental income in the housing auxiliary fund and are used to support the operational costs of the housing enterprise. BPM Section 15 provides more specific guidance on expenditures of auxiliary enterprise funds. See section on Facility fees above as well as BPM Section 25 for discussion on appropriate profitability margins and reserves for PPV projects.
P3 housing fees are recorded as custodial funds in accordance with BPM Section 14.
Food Service Fees
Food service fees are paid by students who choose an institutional food service meal plan or, an increasingly popular option, select a declining balance/dining dollar plan. Food service fees must be approved each year by the Board Treasurer, Chief Fiscal Officer. Food service fees that are charged to all undergraduate students, whether residential or commuter, also have to be presented to the student fee advisory committee and approved by the Board. These fees are strongly discouraged and are currently being phased out (as of update in Fall 2016).
As with housing fees, food service fees are recorded as auxiliary fund revenues and support the operational costs on the food service enterprise as outlined in Section 15. Food service fees associated with PPV projects must also be approved by the BOR and should be used to service the lease payments and cover operational costs. Again, see section on Facility fees above as well as BPM Section 25.
Supplemental Course Material Fees
As defined in Policy 188.8.131.52, supplemental course material fees are assessed “to cover specific costs, such as art materials, course packets/kits, museum admissions, travel to off-campus learning sites, safety equipment, software/videos, and special equipment.” Another common example is the cost of a professional examination/certification, required as a part of the class, and procured by the institution under a group purchase. These fees should be essentially pass-through, assessed with a very strict focus, in a limited manner, and should have the following features:
- The material or service is integral to the course in order for each student to reach the intended learning objectives.
- The student can easily identify the direct benefit he or she is receiving from the fee.
- The fee rate is equivalent to or lower than what the student would expect to pay for the material or service if purchasing independently at market price.
- Upon an in-depth review of the fee, the revenue received from the fee would directly align with the institution’s expenditures on the material or service provided.
In very limited cases, these fees may be used to fund the provision of services, such as tutoring. However, in keeping with the guidance above, the tutoring sessions should be considered an integral or required component of the class, the tutoring services should be obtained for the specific course for which the fee is assessed, and the payment to the tutor should align with the fee revenue. Supplemental course material fees may not be assessed for purposes of general student support services, course development, salaries, travel or other intangible costs.
The costs for textbooks may be included in supplemental course material fees in limited circumstances. Specifically, course fees may be used to cover the cost of textbooks when provided through an “inclusive access” program that is administered by the institution. Such programs MUST have “opt out” provisions that are well advertised to all students, including prior to registration. Additionally, all textbooks provided by “inclusive access” programs must be offered to students at prices that are demonstrably less than market rates for purchasing the materials separately. Faculty should be encouraged to first explore open educational resources that may be available at no cost.
Supplemental course material fees must be accounted for as either Other General Funds (Fund 10600) or Auxiliary Bookstore Funds (Fund 12230).
Students in a course with a laboratory component, or those designated as a stand-alone laboratory course, will actively use equipment and materials in a direct manner to enhance practical skills or understanding of a concept. Labs are most typically a component of courses in a natural or physical science, but may also include design, the arts, etc. Laboratory fees may be assessed in these courses to cover the cost of supplies, materials, and services utilized by students in a lab. The lab must be specific to a course and attendance required as a part of the course. Lab fees for general learning centers maintained to provide optional tutoring or extra practice are not allowable.
Lab fees are similar to supplemental course material fees, in that they are used to fund the purchase of specific provisions for student use in the lab. Due to the nature of a lab environment, there are often times that the materials and supplies consumed are reusable. Because of this, it is not a requirement of lab fees that the cost to the student match exactly the material that the student receives. An example of this is a chemistry lab, where equipment can be reused (if not damaged) and chemicals are purchased in bulk. Institutions are required to analyze expenditure patterns for laboratory costs and set the lab fee rate equal to the revenue needed to cover these expenditures.
Lab fees may be used for student lab assistants, but may only cover the time spent attending to that specific lab. They are not intended to fund instructor or staff salaries, capital equipment, or staffing of a tutoring facility or general learning center, which should be funded through general operating budgets. Lab fees must be accounted for as Other General Funds (Fund 10600 for GeorgiaFirst institutions).
Other Course/Degree Program Fees
Based on the guidance in this BPM section, institutions will need to make the determination of whether a fee charged to all students as a condition of enrollment in the course is a lab or supplemental course material fee. If it does not meet one of those two definitions, in keeping with Policy 184.108.40.206, it must be approved by the Board of Regents. These types of fees will be approved on a limited basis, must still be tied to a specific and necessary cost, and will not be approved as a general fund supplement or supplantation.
Also required by Policy 220.127.116.11 is the annual approval of the BOR for all fees assessed to students in a specific degree program. This policy includes fees assessed every semester to all students in a specific degree program. The policy also includes fees assessed at least once to each student in a degree program.
Course fees requiring approval and degree program fees will be submitted with documentation to the Office of Strategy & Fiscal Affairs for review according to the timeline published in the USG Budget Calendar. Course and degree program fees must be accounted for as Other General Funds (Fund 10600 for GeorgiaFirst institutions).
Other Miscellaneous Fees
There are numerous other miscellaneous fees that institutions may charge depending on needs and the type of services provided. Some examples would be application fees, graduation fees, and transcript fees. In general, miscellaneous fees are charged for specific purposes and should be used to support the services charged. For example, graduation fees should be used to support activities related to graduation, such as commencement ceremonies and the mailing of diplomas. Likewise, parking fines should support the provision of parking services. Other miscellaneous fees should be accounted for in the fund in which expenditures related to the specific activities that trigger the fee occur.