Student fee set to skyrocket

The Student Fee Committee voted Monday to increase student fees by $30 per term next year, while cutting 3 percent from the budgets of all student organizations.

This $30 increase will be added to the $137 that full-time students are currently paying per quarter, resulting in a total of $501 in student fees for the 2006-07 school year.

Every year, each of the student organizations on campus sends a proposal to the Student Fee Committee detailing their projected revenue and expenses. The committee reviews these proposals and has the final say regarding distribution of funds. Once they reach a decision, they submit it to the student senate for approval.

“It was inevitable that we had to raise the fee,” said SFC Chair Katie Wylie.

After the 3 percent across-the-board reduction, the total SFC budget is $9,681,531, a $1.5 million increase over last year. In previous years, the committee had a substantial amount in surplus to fall back on for overages and the like, allowing them to avoid raising the fee significantly.

The SFC had been using an accumulation of these funds over the last couple of years, and this extra money has run out, leaving them with less than previous fee committees.

In order to avoid the 3 percent reduction to student group budgets, the SFC would have to raise next year’s student fees by an additional $5 per term.

Because there are more student groups requesting funds next year, and because existing groups are growing, the money must come from somewhere to keep them running, SFC members said.

Last year, the fee was raised by $6. Wylie attributed the larger-than-normal fee raise to several factors. She said the committee funded more group growth than in previous years, and funded more groups in general. The projected revenue for next year was also less because full-time enrollment is expected to decrease.

This was a central concern over the debate regarding the amount of the fee increase. The SFC members engaged in heated discussion for two hours. Several proposals failed as two sides eventually reached a compromise between taking money away from the organizations and charging students more in fees.

The committee had already accepted proposals for the student programs and was forced to cut these back.

“I’m trying to keep tuition low,” said Mario Campbell, one of the committee members who wanted to save students money by cutting funding to the student groups.

When it was brought up that Portland State is the largest university in Oregon with the lowest student fees, Campbell said that most students do not benefit from student groups. “There are 25,000 students that go to school here,” he said. “I’d say 5,000 students are affected by student groups and student activities, while there are 20,000 students on campus that still have to pay this money, and they don’t see a return on it.”

Kayla Goldfarb, another committee member, did not agree. “I don’t want to see these programs suffer,” she said. “We went through weeks and weeks of budget hearings and deliberations to – decide on these numbers. They were fair and agreed upon by the committee. I did not want to cut funding from the student groups that we already agreed on.”

How much damage is inflicted upon a student organization varies from group to group. While student government will lose around $9,000 of their allocated budget, smaller groups such as the Mega Gamers, who have a budget of only $1,535, will lose $45. Student services are also affected, with nearly $25,000 cut from the Helen Gordon Child Development Center and about $4,600 from the Women’s Resource Center.

Among the largest increases in the initial budgeting process was the Smith Memorial Student Union, which was allocated $150,000 more than last year, mostly for large maintenance projects. Some of Smith’s funding comes from the university’s general fund. The amount given from the general fund did not increase this year, so the fee committee was responsible for picking up the increase in costs.

Food For Thought received $29,100 this year, representing a 278 percent increase over the $7,690 they received last year. According to Wylie, the funds will be used to create and expand the cafe’s catering services.

In addition, 12 new student groups were funded this year. Wylie said that new budgets were generally low, somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 per group.

Student group leaders have expressed frustration both about the fee going up and the fact the their budgets will need to be cut.

“It’s unfortunate the fee is increasing. It’s hard enough to pay tuition as it is,” said Amy Connolly, chapter chair of OSPIRG. She added, however, that while any cuts to the budget will hurt her group, she is confident that they will still be able to do good work.

After heated budget battles in previous years, OSPIRG was initially allocated $124,507 this year, an increase of 158 percent from last year.

Student government President Erin Devaney said that raising the fee is necessary “to provide services and the cultural environment on campus.”

Devaney said student group leaders have come to her with frustrations and concerns about how the process of subtracting 3 percent from budgets will be implemented. “It is unclear how we deal with this. Should I start making the cuts, or do they start next year? Is it a mix of both?”

As for the impact on student government, Devaney said they might have to cut an entire paid staff position or a campaign.

Members of the Association of African Students said they were relatively unfazed by the decrease in funds. They had about $12,000 shaved off of their $40,000 budget.

“I don’t think the decrease will affect the events provided by the student groups. It is a small enough cut,” said Jared Spencer, a member of the Association of African Students. “You’ve got to cut costs somewhere.”

?”Additional reporting by David Holley