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Power to the plant: Students react ( part 4 of 4)

Kaz Alvarez / Sun Star Reporter

May 6, 2014

A surcharge or fee on students enrolled with the University of Alaska is written into the language of legislative funding bills supporting the construction of a new combined heat and power plant for the Fairbanks campus.

“I think that the power plant is necessary,” Cordero Reid, senior Pschology student said. “Without it, we would have to rely on GVEA and that would be more costly. I think the impact will be felt but not be too much of a burden on students.”

This fee would be applied to approximately 33,000 students. Each student would be charged about $60 per year because the legislature placed a $2 million cap on annual revenue generated by the surcharge.

“UAF provided a plan with fuel savings that would allow partial coverage,” Pat Pitney, Associate Vice Chancellor of Administration said. “Senate Co-chair Meyers wanted more money on our part before he could support the capital funding plan.”

Pitney said that the fee would not come into effect any earlier than 2016 since the budgets for 2014 and 2015 have already been settled. How the fee is disbursed will ultimately be a decision made by President Pat Gamble and the Board of Regents.

“What I have a problem with is people in Anchorage shouldn’t have to pay for our problem,” Emily Smola, Psychology senior said. “UAF students should help some. It’s our power plant.”

“It sucks because I don’t live on campus.” Ashley Ekstrom, Elementary Education Junior said.  While the power plant would supply energy to the facilities she studies in, Ekstrom felt that she would be paying more for less compared to a student living on campus.

“Why aren’t we looking for more grant funding?” Smola said.

Efforts to replace the combined heat and power plant have been going for ten years. In that time, it was decided that grant money would not be an option. “We don’t want to have the needs of campus relying on experiments funded by the grant money,” said Pitney.

The new combined heat and power plant will continue a long tradition of coal-fired boilers. The new boilers have an increased efficiency and release fewer emissions. The campus is already designed to be heated through steam produced by the coal-fired boilers.

“I have this concern that shifting more burden onto the students is going to decrease enrollment,” said Matthew Carrick, senior Mathematics student. “This year, we saw lower enrollment numbers than we expected.”

With fewer students enrolling in UA schools, Carrick worries that this will lead to fewer individuals with degrees and lower tax revenue for the state, which will develop a negative feedback look of budget cuts and fee increases.

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