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].


  • All students paying the fee was part of the bargain that students agreed to by a vote, in the planning stages.

  • Thank you very much for bringing this up. I was wondering why there is no one talks about it. Paying for a place that you never use. Thanks Monica, you became thousands of students’ words .. breathe by this article.

    • Paying for a place you never use? What about the university center fee? It’s closed, so nobody is using it. No student usage is less than some student usage. In fact, it’s an eyesore and an inconvenience to have to walk all the way around. By the logic of “I don’t use it so I shouldn’t be paying for it”, shouldn’t you be equally up in arms about this fee?

  • Wait until you enter the real world and see how many hundreds of your tax dollars are used for things you do not agree with or want to fund! It only gets worse.

  • I think everyone is missing the point of why UH has a rec center. It has nothing to do with student health or fitness. It has everything to do with image.
    It goes something like this:
    Harvard, Yale, and/or Stanford (HYS) build something flashy, perhaps a rec center. That’s ok, they can afford it.
    Then next tier then has to keep up. So Dartmouth, Brown and Rice (DBR) all build flashy rec centers – they can’t let HYS get that far ahead of them in the student recruitment business. And besides, DBR can sort of afford it.
    Next, the premier state universities have to have a rec center. They may not be able to poach students away from HYS, but they can probably get a few away from DBR if they have enough flash amenities. So Michigan, Berkeley, Virginia and Texas (MBVT) all get new rec centers. They might be able to afford it, but they choose to pass the costs to students in the form of fees.
    But now, the next tier of state universities have to keep up with MBVT. So now, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, and Michigan State get a rec center. They probably can’t afford it, so they too pass the costs along to students in the form of fees.
    Now the schools aspiring to be TIER 1 have to have a rec center. After all, every good school now has a rec center. So UH, Texas Tech, and a thousand other schools build rec centers. They can’t afford them, so they pass the costs on to students in the form of fees.
    And the prospective students, well, they continue to be impressed by things like rec centers with rock walls – never taking into account that they will have to borrow more money to attend the school with the rec center that they’ll never use.

  • What’s done is done. It was voted on by students to finance the rec center like this, and it’s too late to turn back now. The rec center cost $53 million to build (source: http://www.uh.edu/recreation/facilities/forms/facility_profile.pdf), and it was built back in 2004. Doing some quick math, if we have 40,000 students now and have grown 30% since 2004 (in 8 years), the average number of students would be 35,000. If 35,000 students have been paying in $168 per year for the past 8 years (which we haven’t, because IIRC, the rate has gone up over the years), we would have paid a total of $48 million towards the construction of the rec center. And that’s high-balling it. That means we’re still $7 million short of paying for the rec center, and that’s assuming the rec center costs nothing to operate. I have no idea what the operating cost of the rec center is, but for example, the university spent $2.5 million on shuttle bus services last year alone. That should give you some vague idea of the order of magnitude we’re talking about when it comes to operating costs. So, construction and operating costs considered, what plan do you propose to offset the $3.3 million loss per year from commuter students opting out? Because just saying “no thanks, I don’t want to use that” is not going to pay the bill; it’s already built.

  • All those students that voted for the new stadium, you just passed that cost (like this one) to all the future students. Please don’t complain about your massive student loan debt when you venture out into the real world underwater in debt. It was your choice, don’t expect a “bailout.” (but in today’s world of no personal responsibility, you’ll probably get one, at everyone else’s expense). But don’t fret, you too will someday be taxpayers and see a big chunk of your private property go to the govt paying for the next generation.

  • I think everyone is missing the point of why UH has a rec center. It has nothing to do with student health or fitness. It has everything to do with image.
    It goes something like this:
    Harvard, Yale, and/or Stanford (HYS) build something flashy, perhaps a rec center. That’s ok, they can afford it.

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