SA debates doubling student fee

The Student Association announced a plan last week to double the student fee to the SA in a move members said would directly benefit student organization funding. But some SA officials said the move is too drastic.

Last week SA President Audai Shakour, a senior, initially proposed raising the student fee from $1 per credit hour to $2 per credit hour per semester in 2006 with a clause increasing the student fee by 10 cents every year beginning in 2007.

The money is used to fund all student organizations on campus and supply the SA’s operating budget. It is included in tuition bills.

While a fee increase has been an annual topic of discussion, usually around the March election season, Shakour said the last time the fee was raised was 1997.

“I think it’s time,” Shakour said of raising the fee. “We’re trying to ensure long-term financial stability of the SA and student activity programming on this campus.”

“There have been almost 10 years worth of inflation unaccounted for, making the fee completely out of date,” said Sen. Chris Rotella (CCAS-U), a sophomore, who introduced the legislation at last week’s Senate meeting.

Some senators, however, reject the idea altogether. Kirk Halderman (GWSB-U), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, completely opposes the idea of students paying additional money to raise the student fee. Doubling the SA fee would amount to an increase in tuition of less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

“I believe students pay a lot of money already, and additional funding shouldn’t be coming out of students’ pockets,” he said. “When it comes to the floor, I will be voting against it.”

Last month’s student organization initial allocation meeting saw the Senate Finance Committee hand out 40 percent more than it did in 2004. Finance Committee chair Michelle Tanney (At Large-U), a senior, said if the fee is not raised, there could be long-term negative implications.

“Due to fact we gave out 40 percent more to student organizations this year, you will see a decrease in funding next year because we prevented Finance Committee from getting rollover,” Tanney said.

“Rollover” is money reclaimed by the SA that was not spent in student organizations’ previous year’s budgets. Because so much more money was given to student organizations in initial allocations this year, there will be a smaller pool of money from which to give initial allocations next year, Tanney said.

Tanney said some sort of supplemental funding must be provided in next year’s budget to fund the more than 400 student organizations across campus.

Some members of the Shakour administration who supported the fee increase were unsure of how often the student fee was collected by the University, though tuition bills show the fee is assessed on a per semester basis. Shakour originally proposed the idea after realizing the current amount of the SA budget is not sufficient for the structure of student organizations. He said he supports the 100 percent increase for multiple reasons.

“In 2000, we had half the student groups we have today, programming prices are going up, and we’re about to hit the population cap on campus. Soon we won’t have more kids coming in to give more money,” he said.

The referendum must be approved by the Senate Rules Committee, then be approved by the full Senate for it to be brought before the entire student body for a vote in November.

Former SA President Omar Woodard, who is a first-year graduate student at GW, vetoed a referendum that would have asked students if they support a fee increase. He said the $1-per-credit-hour increase was too extreme then, and it is too extreme now.

“I didn’t think a 100 percent increase was smart. I supported a smaller increase of 50 percent, and I would support a 50 percent increase with 10 cents each year now,” Woodard said.

Halderman supports “a system of fundraising from alumni that already donate money to the school every year.”

Ben Traverse (CCAS-U), a senior and member of the Finance Committee, said he supports a fee increase but said the clause requiring a yearly 10-cent increase is treading into “dangerous waters.”

First-year graduate student Kim Jenko shares Halderman’s view.

“It makes me happy that it would go to student organizations, but I’m curious what other modes of implementation they could have considering tuition here is already really high,” she said.

Jenko said, however, that because student organizations need more funding, she would most likely vote yes in a referendum.

– Brandon Butler and Ryan Holeywell contributed to this report.

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