In addition to the increase in tuition this fall, students will be paying $1 more in student fees for Michigan Student Assembly and Student Legal Services. The Regents narrowly approved the increase in a 4-3 decision at last Thursday’s meeting. Half of in the increase will go directly to MSA, while the other half will cover a portion of the funds needed to supply a new attorney focused on off-campus housing in SLS.

MSA president Jesse Levine said he was pleased to see the Regents approve the $0.50 increase for MSA, which will provide an additional $37,500 to the organization. Including MSA matching funds from its reserves, this will amount to a 17-percent increase in student organization funding. Student groups received $383,436 in funding from MSA in 2004.

“I think it was a momentous meeting because MSA hasn’t had a fee increase since 2002-03 and SLS hasn’t had one since 1998,” Levine said.

Last year, MSA brought in $450,000 in revenue from student fees. The increase will see the MSA fee rise from $6.69 to $7.19.

But the proposal was met with sharp criticism from three of the Regents, including Regent Andrea Fischer Newman, who did not approve of a fee increase amidst cost cuts throughout the rest of the University. Regents David A. Brandon and Andrew C. Richner also voted against the increase.

“It seems to me to be the wrong time to be increasing these expenditures and adding to the financial burden on students, particularly where there is no demonstrated need,” Richner said.

Levine said that he is calling for the creation of an MSA fundraising committee in the fall to aid MSA’s funding priorities. He is also in the process of reaching out to members of the University and administration for advice.

“We’re tightening our belts like every other branch of the University,” Levine said. He added that MSA has amended its bylaws to show financial responsibility when giving out funding to groups and events on campus.

Less debated was the $0.50 increase for the new off-campus housing attorney. MSA and SLS have worked in tandem the past three years to address housing conditions, tenants’ rights, and landlord/tenant disputes.

“This is the first step in the right direction,” Vice President of Student Affairs E. Royster Harper said. “We wanted someone who would be available to individual students for legal representation so they can have a quality living experience.”

This semester SLS fees will increase from $5.50 to $6.00. Harper added that SLS funds would match the fee increase dollar-for-dollar to hire the attorney.

Levine has been working with SLS Director Doug Lewis to bring back the Housing Legal Reform Project to SLS since last fall. The project called for an attorney devoted to off campus housing needs — educating students, lobbying City Council and litigating student/landlord disputes.

Last semester, MSA unanimously approved HLRP. Since his election in March, Levine has lobbied administration to garner support for the project. More than 75 percent of University students live off-campus, and many are taken advantage of, according to Harper.

“This has to change. This is a big industry for the city and this is our attempt to level the playing field,” Harper said.

Earlier this year, Levine said MSA planned to hire an attorney to specialize in international law. However, due to funding constraints, Levine said he has delayed the project until the fall, but he said he plans to continue to develop the plan for the international specialist attorney.

This attorney would assist international students at the University, who can often run into trouble with their status, due to the complexity of the U.S. immigration laws that have become more stringent since the Sept. 11 attacks.

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