Fee increase approved for first time in 16 years

Students voted Tuesday to increase the student fee from $1 per credit hour to $1.50, setting the stage to give the Student Association a $1 million budget for disbursement.

More than 60 percent of the approximately 3,000 who voted favored the fee increase, which will take effect for students entering the University in the fall of 2008. The University is set to match the 50-cent increase, doubling the budget of the SA. The Board of Trustees must approve the hike.

“I am ecstatic that the students have voted so overwhelmingly and in such high numbers in favor of the referendum,” said SA President Nicole Capp, in a news release. “I am confident that this historic vote will benefit student life on campus for years to come. Additionally, I am glad students have chosen to capitalize on the administration’s unique offer to match the increase.”

The student fee, which is used to fund student organizations, has remained the same for the past 16 years despite inflation and rapid growth in the number of student organizations on campus, putting a strain on the SA and student groups.

In September, the SA held a referendum asking students if they supported a $1 increase per credit hour rather than the 50-cent increase that passed Tuesday.

“The referendum was advertised well and students had time to learn about the details,” Capp said. “Student leaders pushed hard to get out the vote and it proved successful.”

The earlier referendum failed with a slight majority of students voting against the fee increase.

“We got it right the second time around and it is with great pride, that Nicole, Brand, myself and others who worked on this can declare victory on the student fee,” said SA Sen. Matt Cohen (SoB-U), a senior. “This is one great step forward for this SA and a monumental change for future classes at the George Washington University.”

Although the fee increase passed, the election did not go through without a few glitches.

When the online poll opened, students were not aware that they were required to log in to the my.gwu.edu web portal before they were able to vote, said Ben Balter, chair of the Joint Elections Committee.

“Upon learning of this potential confusion, we asked the Student Activities Center to send a second campus-wide Infomail as soon as possible to all @gwu.edu email addresses clarifying the proper voting procedure,” Balter said.

He said this issue was resolved at approximately 10:30 a.m., before many of the votes were cast.

“With the special election serving as a precursor to the general election’s online voting platform, the committee is already working with the necessary university departments to refine publicity efforts and further simplify the voting procedures in the weeks to come,” Balter said.

Many student organization leaders sent out blast e-mails to their members urging them to vote in favor of the fee increase.

Sophomores Samantha Shelly and Melanie Kimmelman, both members of the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, said an e-mail was sent out to through their sorority’s listserv telling the sorority members to vote in favor of the increase.

“From what we were told, it will increase the overall amount of money that will go to Greek organizations,” Kimmelman said.

Junior Megan Whoolery said she does not support increases in tuition, however she did support the increase in the student fee.

“If the money is going to student organizations then I don’t mind,” Whoolery said. “(A higher student fee) is one thing that I wouldn’t mind paying for.”

Junior Patrick Ford created a Facebook group in opposition to the student fee increase.

“I know I speak for a sizeable portion of the student body when I say that I am disappointed,” Ford said. “I feel that it makes the student body look terrible when we vote down a referendum that raises our fees but we vote for a referendum that raises the fees of incoming students. It is an eternal truth that people are always more generous with other people’s money than with their own.”

Capp said she will meet with the members of the Board of Trustees this week to present to them the results of the referendum. The Board of Trustees must still approve the referendum before the fee increase goes into effect.

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