Students to vote on SA fee increase

Students will be able to vote this semester to increase the amount of money they pay each year to the Student Association.

The SA, which grants money to the more than 300 student organizations on campus, unanimously approved legislation that creates a referendum on the mandatory student fee before the end of the semester. In the vote, students will be asked if they want to raise the student fee from $1 per credit hour to a flat fee of $20 for graduate students and $30 for undergraduate students.

“I’m delighted that as the days of the Student Association … come to an end, we’re still working,” said SA President Lamar Thorpe, a senior. The Senate voted on the legislation Tuesday at the Marvin Center at the last meeting of this year’s senate.

The extra funds would make more money available to student organizations.

“Because of the structure of our current student fee, student life on this campus gets stifled for financial reasons,” said Senator Nathan Brill (SoB-U), who sponsored the bill. “Student life on this campus isn’t what it should be, and we made positive steps tonight to change that.”

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, oversees the SA and said he supports increasing the student fee.

“I believe that some increase based upon the growth of student organizations, and student-initiated programs and services is probably justified,” Chernak wrote in an e-mail.

He added that it is up to student leaders to pitch a strong case to other students in order for the referendum to pass.

This is not the first time the SA has considered raising the student fee. In 2004, students voted not to accept a fee increase, and in 2005 the senate shot down former SA President Audai Shakour’s bid to raise the fee.

Just earlier this month, the senate failed a measure that would have increased the fee. That bill would have doubled the per-credit rate for incoming undergraduates to $2, raising the amount of funds available to allocate to student organizations from $465,000 to more than $800,000.

The referendum has not yet been scheduled, and a special oversight body for the voting process must first be created. Thorpe said he hopes a vote will take place by the first week of May. Even if students vote down the increase, Thorpe may have another way to install it.

The Board of Trustees has the final say in approving the fee increase, and Thorpe said the University’s highest oversight body would “go with the students.” If students vote down the increase, Thorpe can still make an appeal as SA president for the board to raise the student fee.

“I decided that we could either do it the right way or the wrong way,” Thorpe said, “and I opted to do it the right way.”

-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.

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