Coughing. Cold sweats. Warts. Pus-filled wounds. Slimy STIs (STDs). Urine. There’s nothing quite like working at UCSB Student Health. Every year Student Health sees about 40,500 sick visitors. And we at least pretend to love you all.

You may remember the inundation of condoms that littered the campus before elections last year. Well, it’s happening again. We have over 3,000 condoms to hand out this year – so get your mojo and your ballots ready. The bottom line: Student Health is asking for an $8 increase in our lock-in fee, bringing the total to $20 per quarter. And why is our fee so much more expensive than the rest? Well, for starters, Student Health has the biggest budget of any single student affairs department on campus – over $5 million.

Naturally, if we are to expect a 16-20 percent cut in our budget, we’ll be losing more money than lots of other departments. Student Health also has to deal with medical inflation – another problem other departments don’t have to worry about. Medical inflation has been increasing at about 15 percent every year. So why don’t we just raise our prices?

Well, last year we did. But we don’t like to because it deters students from using our services. Plus, a lock-in fee is a stable source of funding because it is automatically calculated into tuition whereas user fees fluctuate with how many patients we have at different times. If the lock-in fee isn’t increased then visit fees will be raised from $26 to $36, and lab fees will rise from $10 to $15. X-ray fees will be more expensive as well, potentially raised from $15 to $20 per day. The next step is to cut back services.

So what about students on financial aid? Students facing financial hardships who utilize financial aid will not be affected by an increase in the lock-in fee. If you are a recipient of financial aid, the extra lock-in fee will automatically be calculated into your financial aid package. However, if the lock-in fee isn’t passed and user fees are raised, students with financial aid won’t receive this benefit and will have to pay more of an out-of-pocket expense. There are currently about 10,900 students receiving some sort of financial aid.

So why should you support Student Health? Well, we know lots about colds, coughs, bike accidents and genital warts. And that’s only the beginning. We’re less expensive than going into the community, we are conveniently located, and we are accredited by the Association for Ambulatory Health Care (only 10 percent of U.S. colleges are accredited). Believe me, no one except for the emergency room workers at Cottage Hospital on Halloween knows more about working with sick students. Statistics show that, as of 2002, most students do use Student Health, and about 50 percent of all undergraduates are enrolled in Student Health’s insurance plan. And even if you don’t use Student Health, maybe you’ve had to get vaccinations through Student Health for hepatitis B, meningitis or to study abroad. You may not know it, but every student benefits from our presence on campus – the director of Student Health is the only public health official on campus. In other words, if the campus suffers from another bout of raccoon roundworm, a natural disaster or a sudden outbreak of SARS, Student Health will be the first place to respond to it. Student Health is responsible to all students in this capacity. Also, Student Health offers health education classes and internships to all students. Right now there are six classes offered including Sociology 91A: Relationships, Education 109: Health Education, Sociology 91F: Community Health – Athlete Focus, Sociology 91F: Community Health – RA Focus, Drama 91: Community Theater, and Chemistry 196: Health Care System and Career Choices. Vote yes on the Student Health lock-in fee!

Neco Armstrong is the 2003-04 patient advocate at Student Health.