ST. PAUL (AP) - Minnesota lawmakers working to finalize a spending plan for state public colleges and universities are discussing whether student fees that are paid in addition to tuition should be optional.

The measure to make the fees optional is included in a broader, $3.2 billion higher education budget bill the House passed earlier this month. Republican Rep. Drew Christensen of Savage proposed the optional student fee, saying his goal is to drive down the soaring cost of higher education.

The fees help pay for health and recreation centers, school newspapers, student government, collegiate athletics and other groups. The charges vary from campus to campus.

Some university administrators and students say making the fees optional could push those charges onto tuition bills or threaten student groups and services.

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