By KELLY KULTYS
In 2003, the student activities fee (SAF), money paid by students to fund the clubs and activities on campus, was raised to $120. That was a very small fee compared to the price of tuition, which at the time was around $24,000. The increase was needed to fund the growing number of organizations on campus.
Over the last 10 years, the SAF has remained the same. The number of clubs and organizations on campus, however, has not.
Since 2003, the number of organizations requesting money has steadily risen, causing less funding to be available to each club.
This is one of the reasons Muhammad Sarwar, GSB ’14, vice president of finance on United Student Government (USG), has cited as he and his budget committee propose to raise the SAF.
They propose to have students pay $15 more as a part of their tuition, raising the SAF from $120 to $135.
Sarwar stated that in recent years, tuition and other expenses have continued to rise, but the fee has not, causing very tight purse strings for the budget committee.
Sarwar is now entering his second term as the VP of finance and he has seen firsthand the increase in club budgetary requests.
At the Sept. 5 USG meeting, Sarwar presented the statistics from recent years.
“We were able to have $143,304 to start the year with,” Sarwar said at the meeting. “However, in [the fall 2013 semester] clubs requested $255,380. We were only able to allocate 55 percent.”
That 55 percent is actually the highest percentage of money allocated to clubs over the last 5 semesters, including the Spring 2012 semester where only 29 percent of requests were able to be filled.
Sarwar’s research shows that in Fall 2004, a year after the SAF was increased, 83 percent of clubs’ monetary requests were able to be met.
He hopes for a similar result this time around if the fee is increased.
According to Sarwar, the opening amount available to clubs and organizations would be $202,849, up 41.5 percent from the amount the budget committee had at the start of the semester.
“We [the budget committee] don’t want to be able to fund just half,” Sarwar said.
Sarwar also cited the increase in events occurring on campus.
“We had 1,109 activities in spring 2013, compared to 646 in fall 2006,” he said.
Sarwar said that while it is great more things are happening on campus, the increase is just another reason why the percentage allocated has dropped in recent years.
Still, he and his budget committee understand that any increase to an already pricey tuition can upset students.
“We were looking for a reasonable number that wasn’t too high but allowed for a meaningful increase in available funding for general clubs,” Sarwar said.
Right now, the next step for USG and the budget committee is to get the fee increase petition signed by 15 percent of the student body.
Once they have enough signatures, they will conduct a vote online via OrgSync to determine whether or not students support this initiative.
USG needs to gather 15 percent of the student body to vote for the raise. If the majority votes in favor of it, they can move forward.
The proposal would then be submitted to members of the administration, including Christopher Rodgers, dean of students, and Jeffrey Gray, vice president of student affairs, for approval and eventually implementation.
According to Alanna Nolan, assistant dean of students, the budget committee and USG have a tight deadline if they would like this fee increase to begin in the fall 2014 semester.
This coming October, the University will undergo its “b-prep” submission.
“B-prep is an abbreviation for the budget preparation process that happens in the fall semester here at the University,” Nolan said. “As fees for the coming year are set at this time the year before, USG’s process would need to wrap up in time to set the fees for next year.”
If the fee increase does take place beginning in fall 2014, clubs appealing to the committee for club funding should see the effects shortly afterwards.
This increase, however, would only affect the non-referendum clubs on campus. The few referendum clubs, such as USG or the Campus Activities Board, which receive a set amount of money each semester, will still see that same allocation.