What’s a “Building Fee”?

What does your money do within the university? (epSos.de / Flickr)

Like most students, September is a hard month for me.  Getting back into a routine is not the only difficult part of September; September is also an incredibly expensive month.  Tuition is due and the cost of textbooks adds up quickly.  Of the over $4,000 I currently owe in tuition and fees, over $500 of that is in fees that students have voted to pay.  Half this cost is the $250 health and dental plan (which you can opt out of if you have alternate coverage through a parent or spouse), and the rest is made up of BUSU and building fund fees, the U-Pass, the Quill Levy, CFS Fee, and WUSC fee.  In fact, during the time I’ve been at Brandon University I have personally voted in favour of implementing the mandatory $15 U-Pass fee, increasing the WUSC fee to bring over another refugee student, and voted in the two failed attempts to increase the cost of the health and dental plan to avoid more cuts to benefits.

Students pay a $3.30 per credit hour (which totals $99 for me) building fund fee.  Most students would assume, as I once did, that this fee is to maintain and improve all buildings on campus.  In fact, the revenue generated by the fee is used solely for the Knowles-Douglas Student Union Building (KDC Building).  The KDC Building houses the BUSU, Quill, Women’s Collective, and LGBTTQ* offices, the Elephant Room, CLC Boardroom, SUDS, Campus Books, Forbidden Flavours, Headlines Hair, and Look! Music.  The building is governed by a board composed of BUSU representatives, students, alumni, faculty, and administration.  They bring in about $170,000 per year in revenues that come directly from students.  Additionally, there is about $70,000 in revenue earned annually from the building’s tenants.  From this, $10,000 is transferred to BUSU to compensate them for the day-to-day operation and management of the building, and a small portion of the money goes to SUDS.

So what does the KDC Board do with the rest of the money they bring in?  That’s not entirely clear, though there are some obvious expenditures: the Board has gone through three rounds of design plans, which have cost them tens of thousands of dollars, in the hopes of expanding the building.  The most recent design plans included more vendor space, open areas, study space, a doctor’s office, and gender-neutral bathrooms.  The expansion as it is currently designed is a roughly 5-million-dollar project.  KDC currently has about $1.2 million in the bank, which isn’t enough for them to get the mortgage they need to start the expansion.  $1.2 million is a lot of money though, and it’s come directly from students.

Students should be informed about where their money is going and how that money is being used.  Students may not feel comfortable paying money that is going directly towards a building expansion that they will never see.  Instead, students ought to be consulted in order to find out what their needs really are.  It is possible that those needs can be met by a smaller expansion that could happen immediately, such as creating more study space, renovating the current space within SUDS, or creating student club rooms.