Voting on the issue of raising student fees ended on Saturday, April 23 at midnight with a total of 33.3 percent of the student body voting on the referendum and 78 percent of the votes in support of the referendum to raise student fees, according to an email sent out by sophomore Joshua Santangelo, Student Government Association (SGA) Parliamentarian.
Student fees will be raised $25 per student, per year in order to fund the SGA’s general operating budget which goes towards funding clubs and SGA sponsored events like on-campus films and World Carnival. This fee raise will go into effect in the fall semester of 2012.
SGA Treasurer, senior Matt Smith, said a push to vote on raising fees came from “inflation and rising prices. We really had to raise fees.” He also said he has had to work with an unbalanced budget.
According to Santangelo, another impetus for supporting raising student fees was because of the Special Carryover Fund, which is all the money that rolls over from previous year’s budgets to fund projects that are not projected in the yearly budget. The Special Carryover Fund was rapidly running low on money because of projects that came to the SGA asking for financial support.
He said, “it started getting hard to say yes because we were running out of money.”
Assistant Dean of Students Kelly Schroeder said that she has “been supplementing a lot of SGA related events out the the student activities budget.”
Student fees were raised last year, but those funds were specifically for the Green St. Mary’s Revolving Fund, which is put towards environmental initiatives.
The funds from this raise in student fees will go towards supporting campus clubs, service organizations like SafeRide, the Bike Shop, and the Campus Community Farm, and events like movies, Coffeehouse, comedians and World Carnival.
For example, Schroeder said it was the goal of the SGA to “think about how we can better meet the interests [of students] in terms of band entertainment…it would be nice to have a little more flexibility to respond to students.”
Voting on the referendum was set up concurrently with SGA elections as a ‘class’ on Blackboard and students were notified through email and tabling in the Campus Center about voting.
Though some students brought up objections to raising student fees, such as comparing St. Mary’s they to other institutions, Smith explained why he felt they were necessary and what would have happened if students had voted against raising fees or if not enough students had participated in voting.
He said that part of the reason was because “we’re a rural campus” and “this is not a commuter campus.”
“There is a greater burden of the SGA to keep [the students] entertained.”
Schroeder said, “other institutions don’t have those services or institutions can pay [the money for services].”
“No student pays to go SGA events or to use student services” past student fees.
If students had not voted to raise student fees, Smith said the SGA would “probably take a little bit out of everything” and there would have been a “weaning back of activities on campus.”
Schroeder said “clubs would have had to do more of their own fundraising” which would have been complicated because all of the clubs doing fundraising would be competing for the same groups within the St. Mary’s community.
The referendum still needs to be approved by the Board of Trustees, which has not been an issue in the past. Santangelo said, “when a worthy cause comes to the SGA, we’ll be able to to say yes.”