Beginning next year, students may be required to shell out an additional fee for every single unit of their UCSB education.

The proposal would force students to pay $2.50 for each unit taken within the College of Letters and Science, with a cap of 15 units or $37.50 per quarter. The plan – which would mark the first ever college-wide unit based fee in Letters and Science – does not require a student vote for implementation and will be forwarded to Chancellor Henry T. Yang this Wednesday for his approval.

According to the proposal, the unit fee would generate an estimated $1,837,303 annually. The funds would then be diverted to four core areas – course management systems, instructional facilities, classroom technologies and Letters and Science academic advising Web applications.

Alan Moses, Technical Coordinator of Letters and Science Information Technology, said UCSB is rapidly falling behind in the realm of instructional technology, offering limited and often outdated services.

“UCSB was one of the original nodes on the Internet,” Moses said. “In 1969, we were cutting edge, and that’s probably the last time we were. The problem is the amount of money invested in technologies on our campus hasn’t grown as fast as the technologies themselves.”

Although the College of Letters and Science currently expends roughly $2 million on technology per year, the proposed course fee would supplement the existing budget and allow the college to address technologies that directly affect the classroom experience. Specifically, Moses said, the fee would finance the implementation of technologies such as lecture Web podcasts, online quizzes and electronic assignment submissions and course specific chat rooms.

Karen Lunsford, an assistant professor in the writing program, said advancements of instructional technology at the university level are becoming a necessity as media literacy increases.

“It’s about flexibility,” Lunsford said. “Subjects like writing are moving to digital environments and in order to keep up with 21st century literacy we need to be able to teach in a computer environment and to do that we need the technological support.”

If approved, the fee – which is modeled on a UCLA technology charge of $6.00 per unit – would be gradually phased in during the 2009-10 academic year. Dean of humanities and Fine Arts David Marshall said shifting educational costs to the student body is undesirable but necessary given the campus’ current economic situation.

“It would have been our preference to use 100 percent university funding, but it’s not enough,” Marshall said. “We’ve found that although nobody likes a fee, students are willing to pay if we can deliver the services we’ve promised.”

Moses said he is confident the benefits of the unit fee will outweigh the costs, especially when expensive course materials such as readers are replaced by Internet accessible documents.

“The cost impacts on students would be mitigated by the increased use of online resources rather than printed resources that have to be purchased,” Moses said. “In the end, I think everyone agrees the only thing worse than trying to fund an initiative like this through student fees is to not have these services at all.”