The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees endorsed a schedule of fees and rates for the 2021-22 academic year that would increase a mandatory student health services fee by 11.5 percent, or $36 per year.

The increase in the health fee is needed to help improve capacity for mental health and counseling services for students and add an additional clinical health care professional, said Kellie Monteith, associate vice chancellor for student affairs-health and wellness.

“Over the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in student utilization of health and counseling services, and we continue to address the level of severity and ongoing treatment needs in mental health on our campus,” Monteith said. “We expect the need for mental health services on behalf of students to intensify because of the stress that comes with trying to keep up with classes and other responsibilities while dealing with the disruption of a global pandemic.”

The health fee is the only mandatory fee increase approved by the board at its regular quarterly meeting Dec. 4. Mandatory fees to support student activities, athletics, education and technology projects, sustainability efforts and existing debt service will remain unchanged for the coming academic year. The proposed increase now goes to the University North Carolina Board of Governors for approval.

In other changes approved by the trustees, the university’s book rental surcharge will increase by $16 (or 5.2 percent), from $306 to $322 per year, while residential room rates will go up an average of 2.25 percent beginning with the 2021 fall semester, with annual costs ranging from $5,256 for a standard double-occupancy room to $8,074 for a private room in Balsam and Blue Ridge residence halls.

The on-campus housing rate increases will help cover the costs of rising operational expenses and build reserves needed to renovate or replace some of WCU’s older residence halls including Scott and Walker halls, which are in the process of demolition and replacement, said Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs.

With the fee and rate schedule approved by the board, WCU’s total cost of attendance in 2021-22, including standard residence hall accommodations and the low option residential meal plan, will be $13,693 per year (fall and spring semesters) for a typical undergraduate student from North Carolina, a 1.12 percent increase (or $152) over the current academic year total annual cost of $13,541.

The action by the trustees comes after a series of meetings held by a campus tuition and fee committee, including two live-streamed open campus discussions with more than 2,600 views of the forums and a virtual meeting of the Student Government Association Senate, as well as an online survey that prompted 766 responses.