Letters to the Editor: The facts about Student Activity Fees and ABAC

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     According to the University System of Georgia (USG), Board of Regents (BOR) Policy Manual Section 7.3.2.1, Student Activity Fees are one of several “mandatory fees.” Other mandatory fees include intercollegiate athletic fees, student health service fees, transportation or parking fees and technology fees.  The purpose and the amount of fees must be approved by the Board of Regents, administered by the President, or his designee, and established subject to advise and counsel by an advisory committee made up of at least 50 percent students.   

     At ABAC, advice and counsel has been delegated to the Mandatory Fee Committee, Section 7.3.2.1 of ABAC Policy.  It consists of six (6) students to include the President of the ABAC Student Government Association (SGA), four (4) students appointed by SGA President and one (1) student appointed by the President of the College.  There are four (4) non-student members, two (2) appointed by the Vice President for Finance and Operations (VPFO), one (1) appointed by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and one (1) appointed by the Vice President for Technology.  As you can see, students make up 60 percent of the committee.

     The ABAC Mandatory Fee Committee reports to the VPFO.  They meet each fall to advise the administration on the establishment of Mandatory Fees, including the Student Activity Fee.  Institutional approval of the Student Activity Fee is made by the Cabinet upon the recommendation of the VPFO.  Once approved, the fee becomes part of ABAC’s budget request to the USG and is subject to BOR approval.

     This process has been in place for several years.  The $50 per semester Student Activity Fee applies to all students who enroll in six or more credit hours of coursework.  Students who take less than six (6) semester credit hours pay $25 per semester.  Students who take courses online only or who are Dual Enrollment students do not pay the Student Activity Fee.    

     The Student Activity Fee is placed on the student’s bill each semester and is collected along with tuition, other fees, and charges for housing and dining.   

     Student Activity Fees are spent in support of activities that benefit students.  Allocation of Student Activity Fees is determined based on a tier-based system put into place in 2013 after careful study of how several other institutions allocated Student Activity Fees.   

     From 2013 until this year, there were four tiers (categories).  They are as follows:  Category 1–Capital Reserves–25  percent of fees collected each year are placed into capital reserves to fund future capital projects in support of student activities, i.e. construction of student recreation fields, renovation of Thrash Wellness Center, etc.  The next project will likely be the lighting of the intramural fields.

     Category 2–Institutional Programs–typically, 50 to 60 percent of fees collected each year are allocated to programs that support activities which serve students across the College, i.e. SGA, CAB, the Student Activities Program, recreational sports, the Ambassadors, student media and other cultural programs.

     Category 3–Academically-allied Programs– typically, up to 20 percent of Student Activity Fees collected each year are allocated to co-curricular programs that are in direct support of academic programs at the College.  The total amount and distribution of these funds is determined by the number of clubs that meet the criteria for Category 3, the number of students enrolled in the programs that are affiliated with the activity, and historical spending trends.  To be included in Category 3, the organization must be directly linked to an academic program, be linked to a regional or national organization that has collegiate education as a part of its mission and be able to demonstrate that the organization contributes to leadership development, career development or scholarship.   

     Category 4–Interclub Council– formerly, this category included all “interest” clubs, that is clubs and organizations that did not meet the criteria for inclusion in Category 3.   Category 4 was eliminated during the fiscal year 2019 budget development (April of 2018).  Rather, CAB was asked to host and fund a once-per-semester “club rush,” where all interest groups could be present to promote their clubs/organizations to students.

     Recommended allocations, both across and within categories, are determined during budget development each year (typically late March) and are presented for advice and counsel to the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC), which like the Mandatory Fee Committee, is a student-dominated committee.  It consists of ten (10) persons, seven (7) of which are students, to include President of the ABAC SGA, three (3) students selected by SGA, and three (3) students appointed by the President.  The remaining three members include one (1) non-student appointed by the VPFO, one (1) non-student appointed by the Dean of Students, and one (1) non-student appointed by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.   

     The allocation process has remained constant since 2013, except for the changes made for the current academic year.  These changes were necessitated by the consolidation of ABAC and Bainbridge State College, the consolidation of six ABAC schools into four, the growth of participation in recreational sports and the opening of Thrash Wellness Center and the Foundation Legacy Pool Complex.   

     Increased enrollment in bachelor’s degree programs with a corresponding decline in transfer students, along with a College plan that encourages faculty and student engagement has changed the dynamics of student clubs and organizations.  Personnel costs are no longer funded with Student Activity Funds except for Wellness Center and pool staff, recreational sports personnel, student activity personnel and BOR-directed stipends to certain SGA officers.

     Accountability for the proper expenditure of Student Activity Funds ultimately resides with the President.  However, operational responsibility for the expenditure of Student Activity fees resides with the VPFO, as is the case with all institutional funds.  The College’s comptroller assures that these funds are spent in accordance with state, USG and college expenditure control procedures.

     For more detailed information on the collection and expenditure of Student Activity Funds, please see the ABAC website.

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