Eagle Experiences will bring “transformative” opportunities

Voucher proposal was met with mixed results from student body

Ashland University recently proposed a “transformative” opportunity for current and potential AU students.

The proposal aims to create a new university fund, aptly named the Eagle Experience Fund. As it currently stands, the fund would be supported by a new student fee.

All Traditional Undergraduate students would pay $250 per semester into the fund, accumulating to a total of about $2,000 by the student’s junior or senior year.

The idea stemmed from “transformational experiences” being pivotal to AU and its Ashland Promise.

As the proposal states, the voucher “sets forth a means to provide greater financial access to those opportunities and an incentive for students to participate.”

According to Rev. Dr. Charles Neff, executive director of Christian Ministry and an author for the proposal, it is a “priority of the university to provide experiences for students that are transformative.”

To be classified as an Eagle Experience, the criteria would need to be “of the kind of experience that is known to have the potential to be transformative.”

Neff added that these could include study abroad, mission trips, academic or professional conferences, internships or other Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programming.

The Eagle Experience voucher was proposed to the Student Senate, with the student body providing mixed responses.

“Personally, I’m never going to use that money, since it is so niche,” said Sophomore Class President Skylar Phillians. “I’ll have to pay out of pocket and I feel like it is unfair to nursing and education majors since they don’t have time for [those experiences]. If there isn’t an opportunity for every student, why is it being considered?”

Phillians was quick to send out a poll to the sophomore class, asking for student input on the matter.

According to Phillians, she received a total of 89 responses, with 80% negative responses, 15% needing more information and about 5% positive responses.

As the proposal stands, students do not have the choice to opt in or out of the Eagle Experience fee.

“It’s hard for students to save money,” Phillians continued. “Some students would choose to opt in. The choice would allow students to plan [for those trips].”

Phillians suggested a personal savings account for students as a revision to the plan, in order to allow students to retain access to the money if they don’t use it.

However, Neff stated there are “certain things we cannot do as an institution.”

“All suggestions are being considered,” he added.

Upperclassmen undergraduate students have responded with a higher negative response.

Senior Class President Mark Biltz said he would be “surprised” if the proposal passed.

“There is so much backlash,” Biltz said. “I would take advantage of the money, looking for areas to use [it], but I can see people being taken advantage of. I think it’s a great idea with great intentions, but it is taking advantage of the students.”

Biltz suggested a pause on the proposal, opting instead for the university to take time in educating students on budgeting and planning for the various “transformative experiences.”

A recent petition went live with the intention to “stop the Eagle Experience voucher.”

“The more students that we get to speak their thoughts, the more likely that this would not go through,” Biltz said. “At the end of the day, the university will look at what the students want.”

AU President Dr. Carlos Campo identified the lack of student support for the voucher, stating that in its current form, “I don’t see that it has any traction.”

“If we’re going to add something, add it in a way so that it is tuition-based,” Campo added.

This is a developing story.