The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy’s Jenna Ashley Robinson takes a very interesting look at the “mission creep” that has occurred with student health centers on some UNC System campuses. At UNC Chapel Hill, for example:
Next month, the UNC Board of Governors Committee on Budget and Finance will vote on UNC-Chapel Hill’s health services fee. The committee has already approved health fees for the other campuses but stopped short at Carolina’s $436-per-year fee after learning that UNC-Chapel Hill is spending some of it on dubious projects.
At Carolina, the fee has paid for staffers for Interactive Theatre Carolina, which, according to a UNC website, “uses scripted and improvisational performances to promote discussions about health, wellness and social justice.” The fee also covers the salary of a “strategic planner for diversity initiatives,” and it helped sponsor “Orgasm? Yes, Please!” a campus event that provides a “fun, educational look at sexual health, relationships, and pleasure!”
The health services fee, which brings in more than $12 million in revenues to UNC-Chapel Hill, is intended to finance health and medical services for students, including the operation of student health centers. But with the advent of mandatory health care—the university system requires all students to have insurance—student health centers are showing signs of costly mission creep.
Imagine what a college student could do with a big chunk of that $436 back in their pocket.
Across the system, care varies considerably. Many UNC campus health centers employ mostly doctors but others employ only physician’s assistants. Elizabeth City State’s Student Health Services, for example, has a staff of five. Physicians are only available 28 hours per week.
At a time when tuition and fees have been increasing almost continually, it’s important for students to get the most bang for their healthcare buck. At UNC-Chapel Hill, and maybe several other schools in the system, students are paying for more health care than they need, and the university is clearly using the fee for boutique services and non-health related spending. At others, however, this may not be the case. The Board should do a thorough analysis of all health center receipts and spending before next year’s fees are considered.