A fee that is bad for your fiscal health
In comparison to other college expenses, tuition, food, transportation, textbooks and such, the mandatory $84 per semester fee required for the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center is not essential to the UH experience. For students who do not use the facility, that is money wasted, and they will never get it back.
The Recreation Center should function like a professional gym: Those who wish to use it must pay membership dues, while those who cannot for whatever reason take advantage of it or do not want to do so do not have to support it.
Because of its considerable size and many amenities, the Recreation Center, in comparison to a professional gym, where certain areas must be paid extra for, is a cheaper alternative, provided that one pays for every extra amenity offered at a professional gym. But, that is the case if students who use the extras take full advantage of them.
If one only wants to use the elliptical machine or treadmill, pools or indoor soccer courts may not be of interest. Likewise, if a student wanted to use the facility solely for its soccer court, one could simply join a league at an indoor soccer facility.
The Recreation Center is convenient for students who live on campus. As of December 2012, 85 percent — 33,847 students — are commuters, according to nationalappcenter.com. Life for commuters tends to be much like high school: they arrive, go to class, maybe hang out with some friends or attend a club meeting once in a while and then leave. Except unlike high school, they are not required to spend eight hours a day on campus, and many spend half that time here any day.
Each semester averages about three and a half months; this averages about $25 per month in fees. For an extra $7 to $17 per month — depending on the plan — a student can instead become a member at 24 Hour Fitness, which is open all day, every day instead of about 17 hours on weekdays, 14 hours on Fridays, 10 hours on Saturdays and about 11 hours on Sundays that the Recreation Center offers, according to their website.
To someone living on campus, this might be plenty of time for a workout, but to a commuter whose likely purpose of being on campus is to go to class or to briefly work on an assignment, this is not ideal. Not to mention that the late hours are not necessarily convenient for someone who must make a long commute. There is also the apprehension students might have about being on campus after dark considering the facility was a hot spot for criminal activity last semester.
Assuming all commuting students decided to opt out of paying for a Recreation Center membership, the Recreation Center would lose about $3,344,880 a semester, and if moving to a gym membership system results in insufficient funds to maintain the Recreation Center, then maybe that means it doesn’t need to be so inclusive.
Since it has already been built, it could instead work like gyms that have a monthly membership for the “basics” and extra fees for other areas like the pool, group classes or a hike in price for those who use it to be able to use it all. It’s not exactly ideal, but it is a viable option.
Rather than being a mandatory fee, the Recreation Center fee should be grouped in with the student health insurance and other optional fees. Although about $84 every three months may not seem like a lot, to students who pay for their own expenses or those who simply do not wish to use the Recreation Center, it is money they could use for gas, food or for some type of entertainment. We should be allowed to choose how that money is spent.
Mónica Rojas is a print journalism freshman and may be reached at [email protected]