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April 17, 2014

General fee steadily rises to support athletics, student orgs
Thirty percent increase from fiscal year 2011 to fund student activities

By Hannah Corcoran

Since 2011, the general fee collected from students has gone up by about 30 percent.
Each school year, the general fee is collected from students to fund student activities and organizations, student life, student government, the Student Center, the Recreation Center and interscholastic athletic programs.

The growth in the share of the general fee has raised some concerns among students.

The Stater decided to look into the growth of the fee and how it is spent on student activities.

The general fee for fiscal year (FY) 2014 was $54 per credit hour. A student who took 12 credits in a semester paid $648, where as in 2011, the fee was $41.50 per credit hour and $498 for 12 credits.

The 2011 fee per credit hour jumped to $51 in FY 2012 as a result of incorporating the Student Center and Rec Center into the student activities budget.

The student activities budget decreased from FY 2013 to FY 2014 as a result of moving Krenzler Field from student activities to athletics. But, the fee per credit hour students paid did not decrease-rather it increased $1. This is because the overall general fee still funds athletics, even though athletics generate more income than other areas.

At the 2014 rate, this can amount to $1,296 for a student who takes 24 credit hours in a full academic year.

For FY 2014, the total revenue from the general fee and other incomes available for student activities was about $22.3 million.

Of the $22.3 million from FY 2014, around $19.7 million came from the general fee. Around $2.5 million of other income was added to that fund.

“We’re concerned about keeping the cost down,” said Stephanie McHenry, vice president for business affairs and finance. “We need to be frugal as much as we can.”

Mostly all of the money provided for the general fee in a given year is used up for spending in that year, according to McHenry.

The general fee per student, as well as the overall budget, has been gradually increasing over the past several years. However, students saw a larger increase in the fee they paid due to the addition of the Student Center and Recreation Center to the student activities budget in FY 2012.

According to data from the Annual Budget Book, a large portion of the budget is spent on athletics each year. The second largest expense is the Student Center, followed by the Recreation Center, then student activities and contingency.

The General Fee Advisory Committee (GFAC) approves the budget for student activities. GFAC consists of the vice president for finance and administration, a faculty senate representative, as well as members from Department of Student Life (DSL), Board of Elections (BOE), Campus Activities Board (CAB), The Cauldron, The Gavel, Greek Council, Judicial Board, Sport Club Council, Student Bar Association (SBA), Student Government Association (SGA), Viking Expeditions, The Vindicator, WSCB and Whiskey Island literary magazine.

Smaller student organizations within the colleges, as well as sororities and fraternities, can apply for funding online at OrgSync.

A finance committee of student senators determines if an organization is eligible to receive this funding, according to Jake Wehner, SGA treasurer.

Approval is based on guidelines for funding student organizations.

“We treat it very objectively,” Wehner said. “There are very few instances where we have to pick group A over group B.”

Up to $5,000 can be provided to a single organization, based on these protocols. Up to $2,000 can approved for spending on off-campus events.

When organizations plan large events with other groups, up to $10,000 can be provided. This is called collaboration/co-sponsorship funding.

Lastly, the finance committee can provide one-time funding of $250 for start-up costs.

Over the course of the 2013-2014 academic year, $189,455 was allocated for the general funding of organizations (this refers to the $5,000 maximum for organizations).

$12,500 was allocated for the one-time $250 funding to help organizations get started.
Finally, $64,912 was allocated for collaboration/co-sponsorship funding. This amounts to a total of $266,867 for funding student organizations on campus over the course of 2013-2014.

The money allocated for student groups is used for these groups solely and does not roll over to the next year, according to Wehner.

“Our driving force is whether the fee is too much or too little,” he said. “We want to make sure we give that [funding] to student groups.”

The master plan could also cause the general fee to continue to rise in coming years.