LOGAN — A Utah State University student has created a petition for fellow students and community members with connections to USU to sign pushing for a partial refund of student fees.
Travis Forsyth, the USU junior studying communication studies who created the petition, is asking for a 42% refund from USU for services students are no longer able to use due to the COVID-19-mandated transition from in-person classes and events to remote.
“I feel like this is fair and I feel like to some degree it would stealing if they made us pay for fees and kept those fees for things that they were unable to provide,” Forsyth said in an interview.
USU students taking 12 to 18 credits pay about $523 in student fees divided into several categories: activities, buildings, Aggie Shuttle, health services, counseling and psychological, technology, campus recreation, library, music and theater, Aggie Blue Bike and Blue Goes Green.
In an effort to adapt to quarantine and social distancing guidelines, USU has moved events online and Counseling and Psychological Services has transitioned counseling sessions online, among other measures to ensure students are still able to reap the benefits of the money they pay in student fees.
However, not all services can transition online or still be in use during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the Aggie Shuttle and many campus buildings. The Aggie Shuttle now only runs two buses and most campus buildings are no longer in use.
James Morales, USU vice president for student affairs, said while USU students cannot access these services for the time being, USU cannot refund student fees paid for their purpose because the university has to pay for them regardless of whether students are using them or not.
“These are what we refer to as fixed costs, payments have to be made to pay for those buses, to pay for those buildings, regardless of whether students are using those services,” Morales said in a video-recorded town hall earlier this month. “The student fees are in place to meet those needs during the COVID-19 emergency period and in order to maintain those resources for when students do come back in an on campus face-to-face setting.”
Forsyth disagrees with Morales’ reasoning and believes the services USU is providing are not sufficient for what students have paid.
“This truly is not a good return on our investment. It’s a loss,” Forsyth said. “Students can find workouts online from other sources without spending money, but they can’t access the equipment and environment they are paying for at the (Aggie Recreation Center) without being at the ARC, (like) basketball, free weights, volleyball, pickleball, track, indoor rock climbing, etc.”
Additionally, Forsyth feels it is unfair for students to pay for services — such as buildings and the Aggie Shuttle — that they can’t use.
“In response to (Morales’) words about the upkeep of Aggie shuttles, is it the student’s responsibility to pay for the upkeep of buses they are not able to use,” he asked. “At the very minimum should they not get money back for the gas that is no longer being used?”
In the town hall, Morales said he recognizes many students are facing additional economic hardship right now and student fees are being redirected to help pay for additional costs that may be required for online events — such as software and staff labor.
“These kinds of things don’t happen magically, they require an investment of resources,” he said.
Forsyth takes a lot of pride in attending USU and appreciates it, but believes the petition is a way to keep the university accountable.
“All of us love Utah State and we think it’s a great institution, this is just to help keep us accountable and be the honorable school that we think they already are,” he said. “Part of it is because I do hold USU to such high regard, I’ve been really impressed with this school and I love everything about it.”
Forsyth is only asking the university to refund 42% of fees because students were able to complete 58% of the semester in-person before COVID-19 hit.
As of Friday afternoon, the petition stands at 345 signatures, surpassing Forsyth’s original goal of 200. Forsyth plans to give the petition a few more days and hopefully reach 500 signatures before he approaches USU administration with it.