Dr. James Davis, the director of the Health and Wellness Center, was confident the Utah State University Fee Board would grant a fee of $2.25 to the center.
However, to Davis’ surprise, when the fee board met in January, they voted against it.
The fee would have been used to cover the cost of two graduate students practicing mental health evaluations on other students and keeping a psychiatrist on staff.
Davis said he was concerned about having to get rid of the psychiatrist because “it was a service that students were using all the time.” Davis also said he was concerned about laying off the graduate students because they had already been, but the center could not afford to pay them due to increases in the state-regulated cost for physicians.
“My plan was to add the staff and then come back to the students and gather their support, but I wasn’t able to gather that support,” he said.
USU President Noelle Cockett and Utah State University Student Association (USUSA) President Ashley Waddoups felt the fee was crucial to the wellness of students, and they were upset about the fee board results.
“When I heard about this I felt like if we didn’t do something through Tier II to save this, we were taking a step backward and not forward,” Waddoups said.
To address these concerns and do what they believed best for the students, they proposed using Tier II tuition to cover the fee instead.
Proposed Tier II tuition increases go through a process of approvals by the USU President, the Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents before an increase can be declared.
The increase has been approved by all three entities, which Waddoups said she is happy about.
“We’re training (the graduate students) in the field of their study. It’s the perfect educational opportunity and we’re using that opportunity to help other students,” Waddoups said. “It’s a total win-win.”
Waddoups also said she thinks the fee would have passed through the fee board if the board had discussed it further beforehand, and if the presenter had focused more on the mental health aspect of the fee.
“I think if it would have been framed that way then they would have been more in favor of it,” she said.
Matthew Clewett, the student advocate vice president and a supporter of the increase, said the Health and Wellness Center is crucial to students because it’s “not just the place for physical sickness, but for mental difficulties as well.”
Rather than practicing intensive therapy, the graduate students working in the Health and Wellness Center practice initial intakes and help students who are suicidal, which Waddoups said is important because students who are suicidal should be seen immediately.
Similarly, Clewett also said he supports the increase because “if we did not increase that funding, then students would not be able to be seen as quickly.”
While Clewett said he is happy the increase will be enacted, he wishes the fee would have originally passed through the student fee board.
Although the Health and Wellness Center will not be cutting their graduate student employees or their psychiatrist, they will be taking out their pharmacy because it was not cost-effective, Waddoups said.
Photo by Katelyn Mahnken