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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

CSA discusses making activity fund need-sensitive

<ent activity fee is one of the Carleton Student Association’s (CSA) many responsibilities, and during this Monday’s senate meeting, this issue was brought forth for discussion. Evan Rowe, a senator and leader on this issue, began the discussion by introducing the idea of switching to a sliding-scale fee which would set the student activity fee to an amount sensitive to each student’s financial need. Up til now, all Carleton students have been charged the same amount across the board and the implications of implementing such a change were raised throughout the course of the discussion.

Currently, the student activity fee stands at $210 for the year, or $67 per term. The fee funds a large number of organizations and campus activities. For instance, a portion of the budget goes towards covering insurance and registration costs for club sports. In addition, it funds a plethora of student organizations, such as the social programming board, KRLX, and The Lens, to name just a few.

“In the context of the campus climate survey, this is a greater initiative towards equity,” said Rowe. Although this fee is relatively small compared to tuition, “every little bit helps,” said Rowe. “Given our inadequate financial aid budget, the troubling findings about classism at Carleton from the survey, and preparing for the coming economic downturn, we want to make sure that we’re not inadvertently making it more difficult for students from less-privileged backgrounds to attend here.”

While this fee is factored into the cost of attending Carleton, it is not included in financial aid. What need-sensitive means is that the activity fee each student would be charged would be dependent upon his/her ability to pay. In using a sliding scale, CSA would collaborate closely with financial services, who would calculate a student’s ability to pay and determine income categories. The process is similar to how tuition is determined. Essentially, “Students coming from less affluent backgrounds will pay less than they currently do; students coming from more affluent backgrounds will pay a bit more,” said Rowe.

Thus, this is not an increase in the fee itself. Instead it is a method to distribute the fee differently. “The idea comes out of making Carleton a more equitable college,” said Rowe. “With Carleton lagging significantly behind its peer schools in financial aid, I wanted to make sure that the Student Activity Fee isn’t adding to the burden any more than it has to. By putting it on a sliding scale, we as students can do our (small) part to keep Carleton a fair place.”

Some members of the senate voiced concerns over the implications of such a change. One member pointed out it’s incorrect to assume that parents of students who do not qualify for financial aid pay for all college costs aside from tuition. In such a case, the student from these families wouldn’t necessarily have a higher disposable income than a peer from a less affluent family, and a change in this fee would come directly out of their pockets. Others said this could potentially exacerbate problems of classism found on campus and saw value in the idea that all students are equally entitled to attend campus wide events because every student contributes the same amount.

The discussion concluded with an agreement to continue to look into the process. Specifically, more talks with financial services are needed to generate estimates of the range of fees were a sliding-scale model to be used. It is only with further information that CSA can better gauge how the fees will vary.

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