The Student Senate unanimously voted to increase the student activity fee $5 for the next two academic years last week.
“It was bizarre to me that it went through that easily, but I think we made it look a lot easier than it was because we spent a long time as an executive board looking [at] it,” said Student Senate treasurer Josiah Dillon. The student activity fee will be raised from $50 to $55 if passed by the Faculty Student Association.
“I think we really made some leeway in making a heavily important decision that will affect campus life,” said freshman senator Stephen Pelletier. The vote had unanimous support in the Senate and no abstains. The only senators absent from the vote were Kara VanGuilder, Ungelo Steen and Shreshta Kota.
Senior senator Audrey McKee originally hoped the fee would stay the same, but changed her position at last week’s meeting. “After hearing the past history and [learning about] prices going up, it just made more sense to raise it a little bit,” said McKee.
“I think $5 is good. If you think about it, it’s not that much per person but if look at all the students who will be enrolling … it’s a lot of money,” said senior senator Chris Orzeszek. Last year, the student activity fee collected $802,562.
“The increase alone will allow us to absorb a lot of the added expenses without having to make any additional cuts,” said Alfredo Balarin, assistant director for student life. Due to a drop in enrollment over the last two years, the Student Activities budget has decreased. This year, enrollment dropped two percent.
The Student Activities club budget has been cut four percent over the last two years. “Clubs are now submitting budgets and we don’t have enough money to fund them,” said Balarin.
“When we need money, we take it out of somewhere where we don’t have to have the money so when we don’t have to have the money it leads to less opportunities for students,” said Student Senate vice president Bryce Kirk. He said that discussions about student fees with the Faculty Student Association and athletic department began last month.
At the meeting, senior senator Chad Albright suggested raising the fee as high as $15. “The more [money], the better,” he said. If the fee was approved for $15, Albright mentioned, the senate would have more money to fund a radio club, a platform he has held since last spring while running for Student Senate President.
Despite suggesting a higher fee, Albright voted to raise the student activity fee $5 for the next academic year. “I had to go with the majority,” he said.
Senior senator Erika Pelletier argued in response to Albright’s original suggestion. “I think to go from one price all the way up to $15, [although] it doesn’t sound like much, a lot of students would be very angry,” she said. She was the only senator currently in the organization to vote on the student activity fee back in 2013 when it was raised $5.
For full-time students, the student activity fee has been raised $20 since 2008. For part-time students, the fee, which is currently $4, has only increased by $1 over the last seven years and will be 25 cents higher next academic year if passed by the Faculty Student Association..
Although he voted to pass the fee, in hindsight, freshman senator Saydou Bonsa believes there should’ve been more discussion among senators. “I might’ve voted against it if I had a second vote,” said Bonsa.
Along with the increase, a vote passed making the student activities fee mandatory for the next two years. Bonsa believes select students should be exempt from paying the student activity fee. “Not every student joins club or participates in community service so it shouldn’t be mandatory for every student,” he said.