There’s been a lot of talk lately about fees at the College. With the coming tuition increase, transcript fees, and graduation expenses, many students are asking more questions about where their money goes.
Well, I can’t tell you what’s in the College’s financial books, but I can tell you plenty about one little part of the money you pay every year: the $235 Student Activities fee that forms a part of your yearly $2,305 Mandatory Fee as a full-time student. This is the fee that funds all sorts of student activities and initiatives on campus.
When most prospective students hear the words “Student Government Association,” they think of the group in their high school that decided their class colors and the theme for their prom. At St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the SGA’s dilemmas are a bit different: we decide what to do with tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What do we do with that money? The answer is relatively simple: whatever you ask us to. We support all of the clubs on campus with funding every semester, funding that helps pay for everything from food and equipment to event tickets and lodging. Through the Programs Board, we provide free movies in Cole Cinema (and sometimes the Admissions Field!), guest lecturers, comedians, and countless other on-campus events. We also support important organizations like SafeRide, and on some occasions, such as with the floating docks at the River Center, we have even stepped in to help the College when its own budget falls short. This year, at the behest of the student body, we stepped in to save the Bike Shop in Waring Commons when its funding was cut, and just a few weeks ago we granted the Campus Farm funding to ensure its survival for the coming year. The SGA is a place full of positive energy and great ideas: the things I’ve rattled off above are just a handful of examples on a long list of things we’ve done for the student body. Every cent of that fee goes into on-campus programs and events for the student body.
Here’s the catch: we’ve been asked to do a lot, and the time has come to pay for it. Programs and Finance board, and our Treasurer, have been very careful with our budget, and worked with club leaders to make all the reasonable cuts they can. But our budget is in the red by almost a thousand dollars this semester, and our Special Carryover fund, the “nest egg” we use to fund all these major programs, is stretched thin: three years ago we had roughly $500,000 in it, and in the time since then we’ve spent around $430,000 of that.
What happened in those three years? Again, the answer is pretty simple: we did a whole lot more stuff than we used to! The number of clubs has skyrocketed, and students have asked us for funding for numerous projects, which we have granted. While the things the SGA has been asked to fund have increased over the years, our Operational Budget has not been increased in nearly a decade.
Now, without additional funding, the programs we fund— specifically, the Bike Shop and the Campus Farm— are at risk. Without backing by the student body, neither of these could survive.
So, the time has come, as they say, to “put your money where your mouth is.” If the student body wants to have a Campus Farm and a free Bike Shop, they have to be paid for. The SGA has approved a referendum in which students will vote on whether or not to increase student activities fees by $25 a year. That $25 per person will give us additional funding to the tune of $45,000 a year, with which we can support student programs.
As a Townhouse Senator, I take my orders from the constituents I represent. It isn’t my place to tell you how to vote, or what to do. I can only tell you the facts of the situation we are faced with, and allow you to decide whether or not you are willing to pay that $25. Choose wisely.