The Carleton Student Association’s Budget Committee decided to increase the Student Activities Fee from $306 to $321. According to Budget Committee members, the increase in the fee is to match inflation, to fund a scholarship for students who cannot afford the activities fee, and to ensure a rollover budget for student projects.
Jon Gillespie ’18, member of Budget Committee, stated that “there’s three reasons it increased. One is scholarship. One is inflation, which you have to track, and that’s $9 [inflation], so the majority of the increase is actually due to inflation, not anything else. And then, we’ve decided that it’s in the interest of the CSA for the Student Projects Committee to have continual money to spend, to implement campus projects.”
According to Mara Pugh ’18, also a member of the Budget Committee, “only a few years back [the CSA] started doing a scholarship for people who cannot afford the three-hundred-dollar fee.”
Seth Harris ’18, Vice President of CSA and Chair of Budget Committee, explained that CSA offered $30,000 in scholarships last year to assist students who cannot pay the full fee. They are hoping to increase the amount of scholarships offered to $45,000 next year.
With the increased fee, Gillespie and Pugh said that students who are eligible for Pell Grants may receive partial or full coverage of the student activities fee, depending on their financial need.
Harris stated that many other schools’ activities fees are upwards of $500 and Carleton is one of the few schools to offer scholarships to help cover the fees.
Harris added, illustrating another reason to increase the fee, that Budget Committee has received more off-campus conference requests than normal this year, and with the price of plane tickets rising, the fee needs to be raised to match the increase in cost of travel.
For example, the Committee allocated about $10,000 for spring break trips for student organizations. This is the first year the requests exceeded the allocated budget. Next year, they hope to allocate about $15,000 for this purpose, according to Harris.
Despite inflation, “a couple of years ago, the fee stagnated,” said Gillespie. “One year it wasn’t increased, and then one year it was even decreased, which was a bad decision. So we need to play a little catch up.”
According to Harris, the Student Projects Committee (SPC)—which controls one branch of CSA’s budget—had about “$150,000 to $180,000 [in 2015], and is now down to about $100,000.” This fund comes from budget surpluses each year when clubs and organizations use less than their allotted amount. If, for example, an organization requested $500 for an event but only used $300, the extra $200 would go towards SPC. “We’ve been spending that money in various ways,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that we don’t even really know about that are funded not through the school, but through this special rollover money,” said Pugh. This includes the bike share program, new picnic tables on the Bald Spot and Sayles pool tables, she said.
Formed in 2012 to spend the extra rollover budget, SPC is now “temporarily suspended,” said Harris. While money remains in the budget, a lot of this fund is pledged to outstanding projects like the bike share program and KRLX renovations.
“I guess just in general people have this misconception about the Student Activities Fee that we shouldn’t be charging students extra money,” said Gillespie, “but the reason that it exists is because the college does not fund student organizations or student life. Because of that, it is absolutely necessary that we charge a Student Activities Fee and it gets higher every year.”
Pugh said, “For people who can afford the $306, going to $321, that difference really isn’t that much, and if it’s going to allow other people to be able to afford to be involved in those activities, it’s worth it.”
“So it’s complicated,” said Gillespie, “on the whole, it will go up for everybody. On the whole, for people who are in need, it will go down.”