Op-Ed: Vote ‘yes’ on the student fee increase

Students have the opportunity to vote on a referendum Thursday to approve an increase in the Student Association fee. We urge you to vote yes.

As it stands, students pay $1.50 for each credit hour they take – up to 15 hours – to help fund student activities. Many of the 417 registered student organizations were able to receive funding this year because of the student activity fee.

But this academic year, student organizations requested $3,340,000, and the SA only had $940,000 to allocate.

This left many organizations short on funding, as evidenced by the record number of appeals to the SA Finance Committee. There are some organizations on campus, like the Alternative Breaks program and the Club Sports Council, that have attempted every avenue of outside funding possible and still find themselves short of the funding they need.

Today’s referendum will not increase fees for any current student. But first-year undergraduates and medical students will see the SA funding pool become nearly $200,000 larger by their fourth year. Nine years from now, when the fee increase is completely phased in, revenue will increase by about $750,000.

And even with the fee increase, our student activity fee will still be lower than the one paid by students at similar schools, such as Georgetown, American, Columbia and Emory universities.

Despite growth in the number of student organizations on campus, we have only raised the fee once in the last two decades. And the number of student organizations on campus will continue to grow, in spite of more stringent registration requirements.

If this referendum does not pass, you can expect your student organization to see a drop in funding next year.

We recognize that students are frustrated with the allocations process, and we are going to work to improve it. To make sure students’ money is being used as efficiently and fairly as possible, we plan to conduct a comprehensive review of the financial allocation process. We will establish a committee of students – both undergraduate and graduate – who would be tasked with analyzing the financial process and coming up with specific recommendations for improvement.

With more funding, we can improve campus-wide programming by bringing in more notable performers. Smaller student organizations will have the opportunity to grow given additional funding, and graduate umbrella organizations can expand programs for their constituents. The fee increase would help make sure that our sport and academic teams that compete on a national level can continue to be competitive.

Services that benefit the entire student body can be improved and expanded upon. An example of this would be the collegiate readership program, which provided free newspapers across campus but was eliminated this year due to funding constraints.

The fee increase has the potential to benefit every student on campus. Think of what we can do.

Please vote yes.

Ashwin Narla, a senior majoring in criminal justice, is the president of the Student Association. Alex Mizenko, a senior majoring in public health, is the SA finance chair.

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