UC Santa Barbara’s Henley Gate welcomes students, staff and visitors to the east side of campus. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Question: Where do UCSB tuition dollars go? I was surprised to learn that some vital campus services, like mental health, rely on student activity fees.
— Rammy Salem, Goleta

Tuition and student fees make up 35 percent of UC Santa Barbara’s annual operating income base, according to UCSB spokeswoman Shelly Leachman. She said the fees are used to fund academic activities like academic programing, maintaining buildings and classrooms, faculty and staff salaries, and student financial aid.

Together with funding provided by the state (21 percent in 2017), tuition and student fees equal only about half of what is needed to keep UCSB operating, she said.

State support goes toward classrooms, laboratories and other facilities, faculty salaries, staff support, student services, financial aid and utilities.

Leachman said UCSB works to make up the shortfall through grants, contracts, gifts, tuition, student fees and other revenue streams.

“While tuition rates and some student fees are set and mandated by the UC System, many student fees (campus-based service fees) are determined by the students themselves, who vote to augment services and initiatives they deem important,” she said.

“Many of these are related to programming and leadership development, academic support, as well as health and wellness.”

Each UC campus permits students to have a say in how — and how much — they will pay in student fees.

“All UCs allow students to assess additional fees to augment existing services, or in some cases to provide additional ones that cannot be funded with existing resources,” Leachman said in a statement.

“UC Santa Barbara’s campus-based fees have traditionally come in a bit above the UC average for two reasons. The first is that UCSB students have consistently voted to assess fees to augment existing services and/or make available services they have deemed important. The second has to do with our geographical location. Because we do not have a UC medical center and health-related options are limited in Santa Barbara, our student health insurance is also slightly higher than most of the other campuses.”

After the 2008 financial crisis, which saw drastic cuts to the UC System and the continued reduction of state support, students have consistently voted to support services they want through campus-based fees, according to Leachman.

Among those services are expanding UCSB’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), making unlimited visits available to students at no additional cost; Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS); Disabled Student Program; and Career Services, Leachman said.

She said some of the other services and initiatives students have consistently voted to support include Associated Students programming (concerts, lectures, student government activities), intramural sports, Arts & Lectures, The Green Initiative Fund, recreational sports, Intercollegiate Athletics, the Student Medical Emergency Relief Fund, transit system fees, the Nexus Independent Journalism fee, the child care center, the University Center, the Women’s Center, the MultiCultural Center, student intern fellowships and the Coastal Fund.

“Most of these require regular reauthorization through student held referendums,” Leachman said.

On Thursday, University of California regents approved the first tuition decrease in nearly 20 years. The reduction was part of an $8.7 billion budget for the 2018-2019 school year that was approved on a unanimou vote.

Also dropped was a $60 tuition surcharge that was added in 2007 to cover the costs of two class-action lawsuits.

Between the reduced $11,442 annual tuition and $1,128 in student services fees that were unchanged, California resident students will pay a base of $12,570 per year.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.