08-17-2016 training day

Memorial Tower, towers peacefully over its courtyard on Wednesdsay, Aug, 17, 2016, near Thomas Boyd Hall.

LSU plans to phase out the Student Excellence Fee, one of the most contentious fees for full-time graduate students, by 2021.

Graduate students will likely no longer have to pay this fee, according to Executive Vice President and Provost Stacia Haynie.

The Student Excellence Fee “supports existing faculty as well as related priorities such as providing additional instructors and teaching assistants to open more class sections where needed to reduce class size and to enhance supplemental instruction activities,” according to the LSU Fee Glossary on the Office of Budget and Planning’s website.

For the 2019-2020 academic school year, the Student Excellence Fee is $857 per semester.

Haynie sent an email last week to all full-time graduate assistants explaining the plan to exempt an additional $245 of the fee each semester until the fee is phased out by 2021. This process is expected to begin next semester.

“I will work to expand support for our graduate assistants who are a vital and vibrant component of our mission,” Haynie said in an email.

Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Morgan Kelly said the slow removal of the Student Excellence Fee will benefit graduate students, many of whom advocated for graduate student fees to be lowered.

“It [the Student Excellence Fee] was essentially causing graduate students to have to contribute to their own salaries, so it was really the most egregious of the fees,” Kelly said. “I’m proud of our people for raising the profile of this issue, even though it makes me sad to know that there’s national knowledge of this issue.”

Kelly tweeted last month on a trip to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that many students from UNC and around the country knew about LSU’s high student fees and urged LSU’s administration to address the issue.

The University’s administration is aware of the issues surrounding the high student fees, according to Interim Associate Dean of the Graduate School Malcolm Richardson,

“Everybody from the president down is aware that this fee imposition is hurting graduate education, research and recruiting,” Richardson said.

“The question is, ‘How do we alleviate it?’”

Richardson said he believes the best-case scenario would be if fees, such as the Student Excellence Fee, were absorbed into graduate students’ tuition, as tuition is waived for graduate assistants. However, changes in tuition are handled at the state level and require a two-thirds vote in the Louisiana Legislature.

Because it is an election year, Richardson doesn’t believe any state-level change will take place.

President and Vice President of the Graduate School Association Cassie Bonavita and Caleb Taylor met with Haynie last month to voice their concerns about the impact student fees are having on graduate students at the University.

Bonavita said she is “drowning under the weight of these fees” and feels this change is a good first step toward fixing a large problem affecting graduate students.

Bonavita and Taylor both hope to make progress as they continue to work with the University.

The Graduate Association will meet with Haynie once a month to continue making progress within the graduate school.

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