Recreation center fee to remain indefinitely

The sound of clanking metal exercise machines, the smell of sweat, and the sight of yoga pants have been a daily occurrence in the Beimdiek Recreation Center since it opened in August of 2009. Since that time, students taking over seven credit hours have seen a $150 recreation center fee on their tuition bills regardless of whether or not they ever step foot in the facility.  Students taking six or fewer hours pay $75 per semester.

In a campus-wide vote, students approved the construction of the 71,000 square foot facility, which includes three multi-purpose hardwood courts, two aerobic workout rooms, spacious and modern locker rooms, two weight and cardio exercise areas, more than 100 pieces of equipment, and a 10-lap mile elevated walking/jogging track. 

When asked what he would say to current students who were not here to vote on the fee and have no plans to use the rec center, University President Alan Marble stated they “oughta go.”

“Part of the deal with the rec center is to have healthy students, so take 30 minutes out of your day and use it,” said Marble. “We wish every student would use it; healthier students make better students.”

According to RDG Planning & Design, the company that designed and built the complex, the total cost of the project was $14 million. The rec center fee brings in approximately $1.3 million a year. 

“The rec center is a true auxiliary enterprise,” said Jeff Gibson, director of budget and operations. “The fees that come in are attached to the cost of the operation and expenses, and that’s a little different than what goes on in the academic side of the house.”

Neither Gibson nor University President Alan Marble could say when the bonds for the center will be paid off and could not confirm or deny whether the recreation center fee would persist after that time. 

 “It’s an amazing facility and a real focal point for campus life,” said Darren Fullerton, director of student life. 

However, some students disagree and feel the fees they pay every semester are too high.

“I’ve never used the gym,” said Cassie Johnson, senior health science major. “I don’t think students who have no desire to go there should have to pay to fund it.”

“That’s an unfortunate byproduct,” said Gibson. “When the estimates were being done as to whether we could afford to build the facility or not, it required that revenue stream for all future students to be able to do it or it wasn’t going to be feasible.”

Despite the fee, students at Southern have it easy compared to some other universities in the state. For the fiscal year 2016, the total required fees of $283 per semester charged to full-time undergraduate students are the second lowest in Missouri, behind only Truman State at $152. The average is $512 and is as high as $1,520.25 at Northwest Missouri State. 

When looking at the total tuition plus required fees charged to a typical full-time student per year at a Missouri university, Southern is also the second lowest at $5,876.90, only $56.90 more than Harris-Stowe State University. The University of Missouri-St. Louis has the highest cost at $10,065.

“We don’t want to gouge students with fees; that’s not what we’re about, and that’s not what we’re here for,” said Marble. “We need to charge a fair amount to cover some of the costs we have, but overall, when you compare it to other schools in the state, we’re very low.”