Many of you reached out to me after last week’s article to ask: “What’s next?” I hadn’t intended on ending with a cliffhanger, but I think a more appropriate question is: “What’s first?” How can we begin to unravel SGA? Let’s start by revealing that this past year you paid anywhere from $293.76 to maybe $440.64 (depending on how many credit hours you took) in Activity and Service Fees or “A&S fees” – money that goes into an account to be allocated by SGA.
Whether you want to be active in Student Government or are part of “Team Anti-Politics” you have to take a moment to familiarize yourself with what these fees that actually are – this is about four months of your cell phone bill in fees each year.
If you’ve ever requested money from Student Government for your organization or have been involved in SGA in some way, you know A&S are best described, in my opinion, as a kind of FSU ‘tax.’ They are paid as part of your tuition and they are what make up your student government’s nearly $14 million budget; and each year it changes. This past year, the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Florida State’s A&S fees were set to $12.24 per credit hour of class a student enrolled in. This upcoming year, this fee has been proposed to rise to $12.86 per credit hour – that’s a $9.30 increase in tuition just from A&S fees for a student taking the average 15 credit hours.
From 2010, when I first enrolled at FSU until the time I graduate this upcoming year, the A&S fee will have increased from $11.69 to $12.86 per credit hour and I will have paid approximately $1,500 just in A&S fees during my time at Florida State. And it doesn’t look like these increases will stop anytime soon. Florida law allows a maximum 5 percent increase in local fees per year (quick point of clarification: the Local Fee is comprised of not only the A&S fee, but also the ‘Student Health Fee’ and the ‘Athletics Fee’). A seven-person Local Fee Committee, made up mostly of students and Chaired by a student, proposes the fee for the upcoming year in the fall; the Student Senate then approves it and it moves on to FSU’s administration.
Each fall the Student Senate hears requests from Oglesby Union, Campus Recreation, SGA Agencies, Bureaus and Affiliated Projects, funding boards, College Leadership Councils and the Congress of Graduate Students (COGS). Once the requests are heard, deliberations take place, and the budget for the coming fiscal year is set.
Why is all this important? Because it’s nearly $14 million dollars and it’s made up of students’ money. And I want you to play a larger role in deciding where this money goes to and I want you to be aware of how this money could benefit you and/or your organization. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to A&S fees: quite the contrary. After my time in Senate I have learned to appreciate the fee. Most students at FSU, however, are completely unaware of these fees and pay them blindly when Bright Futures and (some of) their Florida Prepaid plans don’t cover them.
Those in Student Government are pretty good about being “fiscally responsible” but we need to do more to ensure our student body is “fiscally aware” of what their money goes towards (I know we put logos on everything, but ask the average student if they even know what the SGA logo looks like). We have over 500 registered student organizations (RSOs), yet less than 100 received any money from A&S fees this past year. There are over 40,000 students at this university, but I will be surprised if more than a couple hundred students have even seen SGA’s most recent budget.
A&S fees, by law, are to be spent to benefit the student body. The current administration has begun taking initiative in facilitating the process for RSOs to request funds but let’s take it a step further.
Let’s educate the student body on how much they’re paying, what they’re paying for and why they’re paying for it – because the first time students hear about A&S fees shouldn’t be through an article in the FSView.
Let’s expand opportunities to assist individual students who bring recognition to our university, thus benefiting the student body – funding undergraduate research projects, promoting business ideas founded by entrepreneurial students and increasing the autonomy of College Leadership Councils.
And please, let’s work on getting more feedback from those we serve. With Summer Orientation in full swing, SGA should be asking the incoming students what they want out of their college experience and then working to make it happen; platforms should be living documents updated throughout the year and not only during the campaign seasons; Student Government should be reaching out to their constituents constantly, attending more RSO meetings and partnering more with resident hall governments. Sometimes I fear those in SGA get sucked into this “SGA bubble” and forget what the average student is like. We can’t expect an engaged student body if we’re not willing to engage with them first.
I don’t believe we should be forcing anyone to participate in anything they don’t want to participate in, but I think as a Student Government we should always work to provide as much information as possible to those we serve and always welcome students interested in becoming active at FSU.
Questions? Comments? Or have an idea you think I should cover? Email me at RB.firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter: @RB_FSU and send your thoughts my way. #SGA101