Reneé F. Borns, Houston Baptist University
Most department or office budgets do not stretch very far. Without budget growth, trying to offer additional programs and services to a multitude of students and provide adequate salaries or stipends for staff members or faculty advisors can be challenging in the face of growing student populations. In times of budget cuts, this challenge becomes nearly impossible. One method institutions have used to confront this challenge is assessing an advising fee to students. These fees may be used to provide new services or to continue to provide existing advising services. The objective of this article is to share with advising administrators methods and means by which some institutions and departments have initiated and used advising fees.
Types of Institutions Utilizing an Advising Fee. In a recent NACADA sponsored survey, only 38 of 655 (less than 6%) advising administrators indicated their institutions currently utilize an advising fee. Of the 38 responding institutions, several institutions reported the advising fee supported the entire budget of the advising unit. In other words, if the advising fee did not exist, the advising unit and its personnel would not exist. For example, advising units at Sam Houston State University, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse all have advising fees that support an advising office. In addition, advising fees may support advising at the school or college level, such as at the School of Management at the University of Minnesota and the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas-Austin.
All survey respondents were from public institutions and 25 (66%) were from institutions with 20,000 or more students. Just 13 reported a student population of less than 20,000. A large majority of respondents were from Texas (21 total) representing academic colleges and advising units. Other states represented were Oklahoma (6), Wisconsin (5), Arizona (1), Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), and Mississippi (1). A virtual university was also represented. All institutions except one (a community college) award four-year degrees or higher.
Time and Initiation. Most respondents indicated their campus advising fees were initiated less than five years ago. More specifically, 69% (27 respondents) indicated their advising fee was initiated within one to five years and 15% (6 respondents) indicated the fee started less than one year ago. The office that initiated the fee varied by respondents and included offices such as academic advising units, president, provost or dean’s office (66%), planning council (11%), student government (9%), or other bodies (11%) such as (each with one response) distance education, dean’s council, vice president for academic affairs, student affairs, enrollment services, academic colleges, or graduate students.
Fees Collected. Administrators reported a variety of fee recipients. For example, 37% of respondents reported the academic advising unit received the collected monies to use at their discretion. The institution as a whole received the collected fee as reported by 26% respondents, and 16% of academic colleges received the fee. The remaining (21%) indicated that a variety of other campus units, such as an academic or graduate college, student affairs, enrollment services, academic affairs, dean’s council, or distance education collected the fee.
How the fee was assessed varied greatly. Administrators indicated fees were assessed either by credit hour or by individual student per term. Of institutions that assessed the fee by credit hour, 9 institutions indicated the fee was assessed by credit hours registered per term with a fee of $1 to $15. Only one institution indicated that the fee was more than $45 per credit hour. Of 26 (70%) institutions that assessed advising fees by individual student, a majority (61%) assessed students between $1 and $50 per term, and 26% assessed students $51 to $100 per term. Three (10%) institutions assessed students $101 to $200 per term and one (3%) institution charged students over $200 per term for advising services.
Several institutions and academic advising units adjusted the fee as needed. Approximately one-third (34%) of the administrators indicated the fee had increased since initiation and none had decreased. Most fees (58% or 16 respondents) had stayed the same over years.
Use of Fee Funds. Administrators reported a number of different areas in which the fee was used. For example, many institutions used the fee for advisor salaries (20%), advisor training and development (16%), advising support staff salaries (14%), and program development (14%). The advising fee funded other items such as operational budget for an academic advising center (13%), peer advisors (7%), faculty advisor stipends (4%), distance advising technology (3%), and operational budget for the institution (2%). Administrators indicated the fee was used for other needs such as technical requirements, learning committees, or campus funding initiatives.
Student Role in Fee Collection. The role of the student is an important aspect of fee initiation. Several institutions (37% or 14 respondents) reported students formally approved the fee assessment. On the other hand, eight institutions (21%) indicated students did not play a role in initiating the original advising fee. Only 5% indicated students or student groups suggested the fee and the same amount indicated student support was solicited for fee approval. Six (16%) administrators indicated other ways which students played a role in fee creation. At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, students suggested the fee to the university administration; the student government adopted it with support from students, faculty, and staff. The student government at UW-La Crosse is a strong and powerful body and regulates the use of the fee. At Indiana University-Bloomington, the Board of Trustees approved the fee with input from student government.
Advising fees can have a tremendous impact on institutions. For example, advising centers at some institutions would not exist without the support of the advising fee, such as at Sam Houston State University. As another example, the advising fee at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse pays for half of the university advising center operating budget, which includes salaries for advisors, graduate students, peer advisors, and the director. At the University of Texas-Austin in the College of Fine Arts, the advising fee supports only advisor salaries. And, at the School of Management at the University of Minnesota, the advising fee has helped to supplement salaries of full-time advisors. Without this fee, this school would not be able to offer competitive salaries for their advisors. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s fee is shared with other campus support services on campus such as tutoring services.
An advising fee can have a positive effect on advising units. Our existing budgets in academic advising units are stretched more in time of budget uncertainty. Working within current budgets and adjusting to budget cuts is difficult. Investigating the assessment of advising fees for students may be one method in which to provide further services to students.
Reneé F. Borns
Houston Baptist University
Cite this article using APA style as: Borns, R. (2006, June). Finding an additional funding source for an advising unit. Academic Advising Today, 29(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]