UNL Services for Students with Disabilities may become student fee-user

Story, aggregated content and video by Lauren Brown-Hulme, NewsNetNebraska

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s accommodations for students with disabilities, like sign language interpreters at university events and textbooks for visually impaired students, may be funded in part by student fees if an initiative passes in April 2018.

UNL’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) introduced the proposal to the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska during its senate meeting Nov. 1. 

During open forum, Sam Goodin, director of SSD, Laurie Bellows, interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Brian Shanks, associate director of housing business and fiscal operations, shared plans to request $770,000 towards their services. This amount would be a combination of student fees and a sum of student fees traditionally left unused by the university. 

How much would this change cost students?

If the initiative passed in April, UNL students would pay about $5 a semester to support Services for Students with Disabilities. In the spring 2017 semester, 925 students were registered as using services provided by SSD.

Goodin said that a major group SSD assists are students with mental illness, something he said is more likely to impact university-age students than any other age group.

“No one here knows if they are impervious to using our services at some point,” Goodin said. “That should be good reason to want to support these services financially.”

Shanks said there is a portion of fees that get unused each year and are then allocated to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Shanks said rather than having these funds lay idle, they could be used to serve UNL students with physical and mental disabilities.

“Our idea is instead of banking these fees that go unused, is to use them, and apply them to an organization that really needs the resources to serve these students,” Shanks said.

Conversation will continue into spring semester

President of the UNL Disability Club Cynthia Highland also spoke during open forum. Highland said that she was confused as to why SSD and others involved in the initiative had not reached out to her and her club members for insight.

“We would’ve liked to be included in the conversation,” Highland said following the meeting. “It’s frustrating to watch others without disabilities sit around a table and choose how to serve those who do have disabilities, instead of just asking us.” 

Because this fee allocation will not be decided on until the spring semester, several ASUN senators asked how they could be supporting the initiative now. 

“Educate your constituents on why we need this,” said ASUN External Vice President Ayat Aribi. “There’s a lot lacking in terms of resources for those with disabilities on our campus.”

ASUN President Joe Zach tabled the conversation for the time being, saying the senate has several months to discuss the issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *