SA leaders question student fee allocation

Voicing frustration about the University’s high student fee, Student Association Executive Vice President Jesse Strauss said the fees serve as an administrative “slush fund” because students directly control only a small portion of the funds.

“Students only have direct control over four percent of the student fee because that is the only portion of the student fee allotted to student organizations,” Strauss said. “The other 96 percent of this is essentially serving as an administrative `slush fund.’ “

“All student fees, in one way or another, are expended to improve the student’s curricular and cocurricular activities,” said Mike Gargano, assistant vice president of Student and Academic Support Services.

Strauss said he realizes the University needs the money to help students, but he said the dispute is about accountability, not spending.

The student fee paid by undergraduates who take 15 credits per semester is $1,035. Four percent of the fee is controlled by students, according to information given to student leaders last spring by Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz. The remainder of the fee is funneled into student center operations, registration, educational technology and general budget support for new initiatives.

“If the cost of GW is actually tuition and 96 percent is for the student fee, why not be honest and simply roll the two costs together,” Strauss said. “Then charge us an additional $41, because that is the money we – the students – control.”

Robert Chernak, vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said he does not feel it is necessary to combine the two costs.

“Mandatory fees and tuition are one in the same,” Chernak said. “Even if (student fees) were rolled back into tuition, students would still be paying the same amount of money.”

Strauss said the SA realizes the amount of money students pay is the same but believes if the fee is called a “student fee” it should be controlled by the students.

“This is the only honest way to go about it,” Strauss said.

“If there’s no issue, they should just roll the money back into tuition,” he said. “It’s partly a marketing issue. The school doesn’t want our tuition to look any higher.”

J.P. Blackford, chair of the SA Senate Finance Committee, said he feels marketing is a valid concern.

“There’s really no net financial gain to students and I’m worried that if our tuition increased, we would be putting GW at a competitive disadvantage,” Blackford said.

Chernak said the appearance of high tuition does not affect the amount or distribution of student fees.

Strauss also criticized the ambiguity of the title “general budget support for new initiatives.” Strauss said he feels the term does not accurately describe where that part of their student fee is going.

Don Boselovic, GW’s associate vice president for finance, said all the money is not earmarked for specific items. He said the funds are lumped together, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly how the student fee was spent.

He said in past years, the money has been used on initiatives like increasing faculty salaries, hiring more part-time faculty, improving disabled student services and the School of Business and Public Management’s distance learning program.

SA President Carrie Potter agreed the student fee is a problem that needs to be investigated, but said she feels more information is necessary.

“The whole issue of the student fee should be looked into, because we do have one of the highest student fees in the country,” Potter said. “It is necessary to have a better idea of where the student fee is going.”

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