College Fees: A Steeper Climb

    Illustrations by Yuiko Sugino/Guardian
    Illustrations by Yuiko Sugino/Guardian

    ON CAMPUS — Last Friday, Muir College students voted to fork over another $12 per year to keep their college’s organizations and events afloat.

    However, after A.S. Council nearly doubled its funding last year with a pricey referendum, it seems college councils might be better off asking their rich Price Center uncle to fill spending gaps before scapegoating students.

    The referendum, to be instituted Spring Quarter 2010, will increase Muir College’s activity fee from $7 to $11 per quarter to offset the Muir College Council’s depleted reserves. With only $8,000 in unallocated funds as opposed to last year’s $18,500, the council needed more money for unforeseen future costs and those last-minute pizza study breaks — and they got it.

    Once upon a time — as recently as the 2005-06 academic year — individual college councils sought out funding from A.S. Council, which is rolling in it this year with $861,500 in Concerts and Events funding at its disposal.

    Thing is, the old system required student orgs to jump through seven separate funding-request hoops to get their hands on fees, begging each college for a little cash before grovelingon the fourth floor of Price Center for even more.

    The overhaul, which sent those orgs directly to the A.S. floor, was intended to make the funding process simpler for everyone, college councils included — as they’d no longer have to decide how many Benjamins the knitting club deserves.

    Currently, the colleges don’t receive a dime from the A.S. Council. Instead, every cent they spend comes from a separate, smaller activity fee on our student bills. It may be a more streamlined approach, but it’s also problematic. When college councils go broke (which happens a lot), there’s only one place for them to turn: their students.

    As anyone who’s ever witnessed a student-cashier battle at Cafe Ventanas knows (doughnuts, it turns out, are actually $1.25), we students aren’t very willing to shell out. During Winter Quarter 2009, both Muir College and Sixth College tried to pass marginal fee referendums just like this one. Muir’s failed. This time around, the measure just barely passed — with a mere 52-percent support rate.

    Four bucks a quarter may not amount to much more than one sacrificed Perks cappuccino, but — on principle — the six college councils should be able to petition A.S. Council to help fill their funding gaps before begging their apathetic student bodies.

    After its own lucrative referendum last year, the A.S. Council is the sole institution on campus with more money to spend than it knows what to do with. It would be far more cost effective to use the funding we already have than to tax students even more.

    A.S. President Utsav Gupta said funding college councils would take away from the money now set aside for all-campus orgs. He insisted all $630,000 of their allocation has already been set aside for one group or another this year.

    But even if it’s not possible for A.S. Council to lend Muir College Council a generous hand this year, it could be feasible in the future. It’s not impossible to rewrite A.S. legislation — councilmembers did it four years ago, and can do it again. Their self-proclaimed mission, after all, is to “promote student engagement in all areas of campus life” — and they should spread that involvement to all areas of campus.

    Gupta has expressed interest in doing just that. He wants college councils to host their own events the day of the Sun God Festival to expand the event to other parts of campus. But money for that has to come from somewhere, and A.S. has far more in reserves than do college councils. If the A.S. Council wants to see that type of participation, they’ll need to make sure it’s funded.

    Before this can happen, though, the A.S. Council must communicate more with the college councils. As it stands, the councils themselves operate almost autonomously from the Associated Students. The only semblance of discussion between the two comes from a pair of senators from each college serving on both the A.S. Council and their respective college councils.

    A couple go-between figureheads can’t lead a real, cooperative effort to serve the student body — in order for that to happen, and for the possibility of greater collaboration and cash-swapping down the line, college councils should at least hold quarterly meetings with Gupta. He may not be the sugar daddy they need him to be now, but forging a stronger council-to-council connection will, in the end, push individual colleges’ interests to the forefront.

    Additional reporting by Trevor Cox.

    Readers can contact Cody Christie at [email protected].

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