Fee hike would boost SA budget to $1.75 million, cost about $90 per student within decade

Student Association Finance Committee Chair Alex Mizenko and Vice Chair Ryan Counihan take a moment to reflect on senators’ debate about a bill to increase the student fee to $3 at the senate meeting Monday.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Chris Hebdon.

Students will vote on a fee hike next month that would double student organizations’ budget pool over the next nine years to about $1.75 million.

Student Association senators voted Monday on the fee proposal, which could eventually add up to $90 to students’ annual tuition bills.

If the fee passes next month’s student referendum, it would increase from $1.50 to $3 per credit hour, plus the 50-cent match from GW, with steady increases each year until 2018.

The added charges for full-time students would inflate the SA budget to $1.75 million. The SA had a $945,000 budget this year.

Only incoming students would be charged the higher fees because of the University 10-semester fixed tuition rate policy.

Facing what the finance committee has called a massive budget crunch, Mizenko began lobbying for a fee increase last month. This bill would add about $250,000 more than an idea floated by Mizenko last month.

He said the current fee does not bring in enough money to cover GW’s more than 500 student organizations’ budget needs.

“We only have one shot at this for next year,” Mizenko said. “If we don’t have more revenue next year, we’re screwed.”

Mizenko, who co-authored the bill, said the fee would still be lower than GW’s peer institutions like Columbia and Georgetown universities, which charge $95 and $150 annual fees, respectively.

The bill also drew two amendments and roughly 30 minutes of heated debate during the longest SA Senate meeting in recent memory. At the group’s last meeting – when allocations for student organizations were approved – senators faced flak for engaging in little debate on what Center for Student Engagement Director Tim Miller called the SA’s most important meeting of the year.

SA President Ashwin Narla urged senators to vote yes on the bill, because, “We need something we can give the Board of Trustees” in return for helping out student organizations.

“We have a lot of student organizations trying to do things, but the money isn’t there,” he added.

If the referendum passes next month, it could factor into the Board of Trustees’ decisions when setting tuition in January.

The last fee hike passed in 2008, which raised the fee by 50 cents, and was grandfathered in over five years. Last year was the first the SA did not see a boost in its budget pool.

The bill passed with two students opposed and one abstaining. Senators spent more than an hour hashing out concerns an increase to $3 would not be sufficient.

Vice Chair of the Finance Committee Ryan Counihan closed the debate and said while he wanted to be “aggressive,” future SA leaders could push another policy down the road if needed.

“This allows future administrations to make a referendum if they think what we have done isn’t enough,” Counihan said.

This post was updated Oct. 16 to reflect the following:

Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Student Association passed a bill last month proposing a fee increase. In fact, the organization’s leadership floated the idea, but did not bring it to the senate floor. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that the bill passed with no opposition. Two senators voted against the bill. 

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