New fee hard to see

Students pay more for activities without notification

Junior John Mathews didn’t know the student activity fee doubled this fall, and he said he’d have liked to be notified.

Over the summer, the Board of Trustees approved the doubling of the student activity fee after a spring proposal pushed by Student Government Association. The increase is visible if a student looks at his or her bill via MyUSI, but there is no indication of the change otherwise.

The previously $50 dollar student activity fee was designated to fund specific organizations or campus activities, such as USI theatre, athletics, Activities Programming Board and SGA. Portions of the fee also funded the Recreation, Fitness and Wellness Center and campus services such as the bus system.

As of now, the distribution of the increased fee has not been determined.

Mathews said if the now $100 fee could result in more funding more smaller organizations such as Esports and the Tabletop Club, he’d have less objection to paying it.

“I don’t go to sports events and sometimes I go to events if there’s free food, but for the most part, I’m just in clubs,” the accounting major said.

He said Esports and Tabletop aren’t receiving any university funding, and their equipment is paid for out of pocket by its members or even recent graduates who want to see the organizations succeed.

“If this increase helps student organizations and isn’t a ploy to get more money, it’s a good thing,” Mathews said. “But it doesn’t help otherwise.”

Financial Officer Aaron McCullough brought the idea of an increased student activity fee to SGA and after discussion with the general assembly, he presented the proposal of a mandatory, $100 fee to Steve Bridges, vice president for Finance and Administration.

“We looked at a lot of schools and at a $50 student fee, we had the lowest,” the graduate business administration student said. “We hope with (the increase) we can give more organizations operational money.”

Since the fee’s exact purposes have yet to be determined, McCullough said in partnership with administration, he hopes he can communicate with student leaders from a variety of organizations so the funding is distributed to more groups that need it.

“I don’t want this to be just SGA,” he said. “I want this to be a discussion with everybody.”

McCullough said he hopes students on campus can see a positive impact from the fee as more time passes and organizations can improve programming with more funding.

“It’s going to be a good thing,” he said. “Whatever your passion is at USI, hopefully there can be some money there.”

Bridges said even before McCullough brought up SGA’s proposal, administration was already discussing the student activity fee. He said $50 fee hadn’t been raised since July 2012, and administration was considering a $75 fee increase.

However, when McCullough showed him the list of other schools’ fees in comparison to USI’s, Bridges said he saw the benefits in a $100 fee.

“This will be a more noticeable difference to what’s being done on campus,” Bridges said. “We decided this made sense, and these dollars will only be going to fund student items.”

He said he hopes that leaders within SGA like McCullough as well as President Ashley Wright will communicate with other student organizations to determine what will make the biggest impact.

Bridges said it will not be an automatic increase for all existing funds.

“This (year) will be a review process to reallocate the funds (from the $50 fee),” Bridges said. “In subsequent years, there will be more of a monitoring and tweaking process as we become knowledgeable to what students want.”

Neither Bridges nor McCullough had a specific time frame in which all funding allocations would be determined, but Bridges said the money from the fee will be available to start helping organizations or events this semester.

“This won’t be decided by a few,” he said. “We’re all on board to use the dollars efficiently and solely for the students.”