By Carlos Ferrand
The Alamo Colleges’ board of trustees voted unanimously to implement a $1 international education fee pending a majority vote of students from all five Alamo Colleges in its regular monthly board meeting Tuesday in Room 101 of Killen Center.
The assessed fee is $1 per student per semester.
The fee is intended to assist students interested in study abroad programs.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for our students,” Carol Fimmen, director of international programs, said.
The fee is scheduled for implementation in spring.
No procedure for a districtwide vote was discussed during the meeting.
Fimmen said that there is no plan in place at the moment for a vote, but the goal is still to have the fee in place by spring registration.
“We will have to move quickly on this,” she said.
Spring registration traditionally begins in November.
During an interview following the meeting, District 1 trustee Joe Alderete Jr. said he was looking forward to seeing how the voting process would unfold.
“We need to have the students have the say in this because it is coming out of their pocket,” Alderete said.
“It is very important for students to have a role, especially when the impact of that role sometimes affects some students and not others,” he said. “So in a true democracy, you want to reflect the opinion of all those involved.”
Alderete called the vote “a good learning situation. How do we even get people to voice their opinion through their vote?”
District 2 trustee Denver McClendon said the opportunity for students to explore other cultures and study abroad is very important, but the assessment of a $1 fee should not be decided by trustees.
He said when every student is assessed a fee but only a small number participate, that decision should belong to the students.
“If you’re going to tax students, then students should have a voice in it,” McClendon said.
The Texas Legislature approved allowing higher education institutions to assess a fee of $1 to $4 to support study abroad programs, but if the fee exceeds $1, a student vote is required.
During the Audit, Budget and Finance Committee meeting Sept. 10, McClendon said that despite not needing a student vote, it would be better if students voted anyway.
The fee is estimated to generate $150,000 a year, and eligible students could receive up to $1,000 in scholarships to be used for study-abroad programs.
The estimated cost to study abroad is $3,000-$3,500 for five weeks, Fimmen said.
Only about 60 students participate in study abroad programs.
A $1 international fee could increase that number to about 200, Fimmen said.