FAU health fee rises

Dylan Bouscher

Students are paying more toward their health fee this year, but over two thirds of them aren’t taking advantage of what they pay for.

FAU’s health fee went up this school year from $8.97 to $9.42 per credit hour to continue paying for the department’s operating costs, according to director of Student Health Services, Cathie Wallace. Last year, 25 percent of FAU students visited SHS. Those students had to pay an extra $5 medical visit fee that was added in 2007, when the health fee was only $5. The visit fee remained so SHS could pay for services it started offering after the fee was added.

Since the 2006-2007 school year, the number of students who visit SHS clinics has declined from 13,115 to 11,592. This is because more students are coming to FAU with their immunization requirements already met, and the populations of the Davie, Jupiter and Treasure Coast campuses have decreased.

In the 2010-2011 school year, only 7,201 students out of the 29,000 at FAU used SHS. “We have had higher numbers in the past. During the H1N1 epidemic there was an increase,” said Wallace, on students visiting the office in 2009.

The health fee at FAU is still eight cents cheaper than the average health fee at public universities in Florida, which is $9.50 per credit hour, according to the Florida Board of Governors website. Serena Solomon, junior anthropology major, visits the pharmacy once a month, and the Women’s Clinic once a year. Solomon said, “I haven’t really thought about it. I guess it’s not too extravagant, I would be paying more if I went to a normal clinic outside of school.”

After waiting seven years to request more money for the health fee, Wallace said, “It allowed us to afford the services we were already providing.” The wait took so long because Athletics and Activities & Services fees were increasing in those years. Athletics, A&S and health fees are local fees included in tuition at all Florida public universities. These fees cannot be more expensive than the Florida Board of Governors allows. The health fee is still the cheapest of the three local fees at FAU.

“None of these offices receive funding from the State or the University,” according to Wallace. They are funded fully by students like you, and remain unused by three quarters of students like you.

Undecided freshman, Austin Philpot, visits Student Health Services once a semester. When asked about having to pay the visit fee on top of the health fee, Austen said “It’s ridiculous.”

This spring, SHS hopes to open a secure web portal for students who want access to lab test results online. That is one step toward converting all medical records from being paper to electronic, which is a long-term cost-cutting goal for Wallace.

As well as covering the costs of SHS, the health fee also covers the office of Counseling and Psychological Services, the pharmacy, the Dental Clinic, the Women’s Clinic, Today and Beyond Wellness, Health Promotions and the Immunizations Office.

Most services in these offices are offered at a reduced fee, that is usually cheaper than private medical offices, according to Wallace. Individual therapy, group therapy, couple’s therapy and condoms are free of charge at Today and Beyond Wellness and Counseling and Psychological Services.

The amount of students using Counseling and Psychological Services is even lower than SHS. At any given time, only 11.8-12.8 percent of FAU students are visiting Counseling and Psychological Services, according to their new office director, Dr. Kirk Dougher. That’s average for university counseling centers, according to Dougher, who said “they usually have around 11-13 percent of the student population” using their services.

While the fee covers the costs of operating those offices, vaccines, tests, screenings, teeth cleanings, x-rays, fillings, fluoride treatments, EKGs, labs and stitching are some of the services that cost extra.

Geoffrey Campbell, senior biology major, has been at FAU four and a half years, and visited Counseling and Psychological Services for the first time this semester. Campbell said “I guess that’s not good. If they’re already charging all of us for it, why charge us more?”