Undergraduate students at Bowling Green State University who cannot provide proof of independent coverage will have to pay for mandatory health insurance beginning next year.
The BGSU board of trustees approved the new requirement at its meeting yesterday. The board also approved a six-year capital budget request that includes an expansion of the university's health center.
"A lot of young people discount the importance of health insurance until you have a broken arm or even a minor accident," said Ed Whipple, BGSU vice president of student affairs. "When students don't have health insurance, they will not seek medical help, and it usually gets worse for them."
BGSU is one of an increasing number of colleges that have instituted mandatory health insurance, a policy that calls for students to show proof of coverage or buy into a university-provided one for an annual fee.
Mr. Whipple said the cost hasn't been determined and the policy would likely be enforced when a student registers for classes.
Trustee J. Robert Sebo acknowledged that the new requirement would be an added expense for some students, but said that if those students were hit with an extravagant medical bill, the insurance would allow them to continue school without interruption.
The proposal was approved earlier this year by both undergraduate and graduate student leaders who said they considered it a way of helping, not hurting, students on campus.
BGSU estimates that 90 percent of its undergraduate population already have health insurance coverage.
Bob Waddle, assistant vice president for capital planning at BGSU, said an addition to the Student Health Center is among the most important projects on its capital budget request for fiscal years 2007-12. The project, projected to cost almost $14.8 million, will provide space to accommodate student health services, the Wellness Center, the counseling center, and disability services. The existing Student Health Services space will be renovated to accommodate the movement of the medical technology program - a move that will help consolidate the College of Health and Human Services as well as to free up needed lab space in the Life Sciences Building.
"They have a difficult time because of cramped space," Mr. Waddle said. "All the projects are part of our master plan and are like dominos or stepping stones."
A second priority within the capital budget request being forwarded to the Ohio Board of Regents is $8.1 million for demolishing the Saddlemire Student Services Building and replacing it with a new one in 2007-08. A recent study showed that Saddlemire's round configuration would make it more costly to renovate and less efficient spacewise than replacing it. The new building would be roughly half the size of the existing building, and some occupants would be relocated to the Health Center addition or other campus locations. The new facility would house the vice president of student affairs, student employment, cooperative education, the career center, multicultural affairs, and student legal services.
In addition to the request to replace Saddlemire, the capital budget request includes $26.5 million for auxiliary improvements and $250,000 for local capital improvements. For 2009-10, BGSU's request calls for a $16.2 million rehabilitation of University Hall, $7 million for auxiliary improvements, and $250,000 in local capital improvements.
The 2011-12 request has a $7.4 million phase one rehabilitation of Hanna Hall; $8.6 million phase one rehabilitation of Moseley Hall; $1.5 million for utility infrastructure; $7 million for auxiliary improvements; and $250,000 in local capital improvements.
In other business, the trustees rejected a fact-finding report that recommended a 45 percent increase in base pay rates over the next three years for the union representing campus police officers.
The university has been negotiating with the International Union of Police Association's Local 103 since their contract expired April 27.
Cpl. Mark Reef, president of the union, which has 23 members, said they are willing to continue negotiating with the university and expect to go back to federal mediation.