Editorial: Additional student fees necessary for improving Ellis

The proposed renovations and additions to Ellis Library are truly necessary to facilitating a positive learning environment for students.

The Missouri Students Association Senate will vote Wednesday night to determine whether a push to raise funds for libraries through a new student fee will be on the November ballot. If approved, a referendum will allow students to vote on a fee to increase library funds, from $5 per credit hour, increasing each year by $2 to be capped at $15 per credit hour by 2022. If denied, the libraries will remain in a “stagnant” fiscal state, as Matt Gaunt, director of advancement for MU Libraries, [told The Maneater](link to story when up).

The current state of our libraries is inadequate for creating a positive learning atmosphere. Students lack access to many databases and journals important to research, and the library requires a number of extensive renovations to meet the rising need for power within the library. The new student fee could be the solution for these problems.

Library officials said the fees will amount to an additional $13 million a year, money which will be spent creating a 24/7 study space in Ellis Library, expand the libraries’ collection of books, journals and databases, hire additional staff and raise salaries for existing employees. Gaunt told The Maneater the libraries hit a “critical mass” two years ago, and that additional funding is the key to addressing inadequacies.

The fee would also allow MU libraries to finally catch up with enrollment growth and peer universities. Between 1998 and 2013, MU’s total enrollment grew by about 50 percent, while the libraries slashed 25 percent of its full-time employees, according to proposal documents. The documents also show that MU’s investment in libraries is falling behind its peer universities in the Association of American Universities: MU’s total library operating budget of $17.6 million pales in comparison to the average public university library spending in the AAU of $32.7 million.

We strongly support giving the libraries the funding they need and encourage the MSA Senate to allow students to vote on this fee in November. While adding costs to students is not an ideal approach, it may be the only remaining option; library officials said they have tried to acquire funding elsewhere for years, but as state support for higher education continues to decline, other doors to funding have shut.

However, if MSA moves forward with a referendum vote, we encourage students to engage in the informational forums planned by library officials before deciding on the issue themselves. This is a decision that directly impacts the entire student body and could have a profound effect on academic careers of future students, and we implore students to vote with a comprehensive understanding of these factors.

A library is essential to having a college education. Having access to as many resources as possible fosters an environment where students can learn in and out of the classroom. These improvements are necessary to modernizing the education students receive at MU.

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