I’ve heard the same story all too often: the performing arts group lacking the funds to put on a concert, the club sport not able to travel to a regional tournament, the student organization without enough money to rent out Lisner Auditorium for an event.
My two terms as Student Association executive vice president have exposed me to tons of student groups in similar situations. Unable to meet daily programmatic and organizational needs because of a lack of funding from the SA, student organizations are forced to scale back programming and cancel events. The problem is systemic and occurs year to year.
This past year, student groups on campus requested close to $1.5 million and received only $239,425 in initial allocations. With a University student population of well over 20,000 and more than 300 active student organizations, our current levels of funding are simply inadequate.
The SA fee – the source of SA revenue – in its current state provides no remedy to this situation. The fee does not adjust to inflation and market forces and does not increase annually to respond to the increasing number of student organizations requiring the SA’s financial support. In fact, the fee – as charged to individual students – has not increased since it was created in 2001. While there are variable fluctuations in the number of students paying into the fee, any increase in funds from year to year is not enough to support increases of substance to student organization funding. And eventually – now that the fee has been fully implemented for three years – our internal projections indicate that the number of students paying into the fee will stabilize and level out, causing us to potentially fund student organizations at the same level as previous years. This effectively stamps out any growth in student organization development.
The $1 per-credit-hour fee currently charged to students is significantly lower than comparable colleges and universities in our market basket. American University’s Student Confederation, for example, which services a little less than 10,000 students, has an annual fee-driven income of more than $700,000. Directly compared to our numbers – more than 20,000 students served / $460,000 collected in revenue – GW’s SA falls flat. The fee we charge students, compared again to American, is mere pittance. In fact, even with a 100 percent increase in the current fee charged, GW students would still pay less, individually, on an annual basis than our counterparts at American.
There is an immediate remedy available to students and student organizations. This week, the student body will be asked to consider a referendum raising the SA fee to $2 per credit hour up to 15 credit hours – a maximum fee of $30 per student per semester. As a graduating senior, the increase won’t affect me personally, but I realize – as a student leader and someone who has benefited from rich and diverse student programming and events – the consequence of this vote.
If approved, the bulk of the fee increase will be cycled back to student organizations to respond to organizational demand and growth. The remainder of the fee will be used to improve student services and SA responsiveness in programmatic and policy initiatives. If the fee initiative fails, student organizations will continue to struggle to provide day-to-day programming, the amount allocated to new student organizations will continue to be meager, and the services that your SA can provide will continue to be substantially limited.
Campus student organizations – whether political, performing arts, religious or service oriented – deserve our support and attention. Student organizations help build and maintain our University’s sense of community, develop student leadership and interactive skills, and provide an outlet for affirmative social development.
We can all give back to student organizations on Wednesday and Thursday by voting “yes” on this week’s referendum to increase the SA fee. We owe it to GW and our fellow students to responsibly fund our campus activities and student organizations.
-The writer, a senior, is the Student Association executive vice president.