All this is going to your Student Activities fee

All this is going to your Student Activities Fee (sort of…)

Today, CCSC and ESC* announced in a College-wide email that the councils will be voting at their weekly meetings on whether to propose a $4.50 increase in the semesterly student activities fee. Thus, the semester rate would hike up to $112.50 from $108 and would go towards “funding for student groups and student activities—it is equal to the amount of money needed to have a balanced budget next year.” CCSC’s meeting on Sunday at 8pm will be open, as will ESC’s meeting on Monday at 9:30pm, and both councils encourage anyone who wants to voice an opinion to attend. Both meetings will take place in the Satow Room in Lerner.

The Student Activities Fee factors into the semesterly Student Life Fee and goes toward each student’s respective student council.  Historically, the Student Life Fee was increased regularly up to the 2012-2013 academic year.  It has remained at that level, $108, since then, “despite increases in student group programming and costs.”

ESC VP of Finance Robert Ying also commented on the proposed raise:

“The amount of $4.50 was based on the difference between the projected growth of student group spending for next year and the amount of money available from the student council budgets to give to student groups. While this is a ~4% increase over last year, it’s worth noting that since it hasn’t increased for a number of years, the amortized per-year increase is lower.

The Student Activities Fee pays for the large majority of student activities on campus, including student groups (i.e. ABC, SGB, GBB, IGC, CI, CSGB groups), student council programming, school-wide events, funds and grants available to groups and individual students, and more.

The expected budget increase from the raise in the Student Activities Fee is intended to go to governing boards through the Funding at Columbia University (F@CU) process this coming spring.”

You can read CCSC’s email about the change below.

Good afternoon, Columbia College!

This email is a bit on the long side, but it has an important announcement affecting everyone in the College:

(tl;dr: Student group costs have been increasing each year without corresponding increases in the money flow that pays for those costs. This week, we are considering a $4.50 increase to the Student Activities Fee in order to sustain student group growth and programming. Please come voice your opinion!)

In addition to planning campus wide events and advocating for changes to Columbia policy, student council is responsible for ensuring that student activities at Columbia operate smoothly and sustainably, while minimizing their costs. In the past year, it has become increasingly clear that the current level of student group programming is fiscally untenable.

At our CCSC meeting this coming Sunday at 8pm, we will be voting on whether or not to recommend an increase of $4.50 (a 4% change from $108.00 to $112.50) in the semesterly Student Activities Fee. The proposed increase is intended to go entirely towards funding for student groups and student activities — it is equal to the amount of money needed to have a balanced budget next year. This would allow governing boards to increase allocations to groups, recognize new groups, increase their ability to give cosponsorships, and more.

CCSC will be discussing and voting on this proposal at its meeting on Sunday, November 23, 2014, at 8:00 PM in the Satow Room. If you are interested in having your voice heard and considered, please attend this open meeting and give your input! Alternatively, if you can’t make the meeting, please send us an email at to share your thoughts and perspective on the proposal.

A short summary of how funding flows at Columbia:

Each semester, every student pays a “Student Life Fee”, which is broken down into a number of categories. These include the “Student Activities Fee”, Athletics, Lerner Hall, CUIT, Housing, CCE, etc [1]. Each of these respective departments within the University has the ability to change their portion of the fee; the sum of all of these segments is the full Student Life Fee.
The Student Activities Fee goes to the student’s respective student council, i.e. CCSC for those in Columbia College, and ESC for those in SEAS. This works out to about $994,000 (2 semesters * $108 * 4602 students)  for CCSC and $342,000 (2 semesters * $108 * 1583 students) for ESC. These funds help pay for all student activities on campus.
Through the Funding at Columbia University (F@CU) process, the four undergraduate councils (CCSC, ESC, GSSC, SGA) allocate the majority of their funding from the Student Activities Fees to the six governing boards (ABC, SGB, GBB, CI, CSGB, IGC) [2]
Governing boards then allocate their funding to their constituent student groups, which use them to hold awesome events and programs.
As you can see from the following chart, the Student Activities Fee was increased regularly up until AY 2012-2013. It has remained at its $216 annual level since then, despite increases in student group programming and costs.

You may notice that the governing board allocations have nonetheless continued to increase. This has come largely as a result of the four student councils reducing their internal expenditures and shifting the money directly to student groups; however, after three years of doing so, there simply isn’t much fat left to cut. This was evidenced in F@CU at the end of Spring 2014, where we were unable to provide governing boards with as much money as they felt their groups needed.

We think that it’s important for student programming to continue to grow on this campus, and that’s only possible if we have more resources to work with.

There are a number of facts worth noting:

The Student Activities Fee is only one part of the Student Life Fee — as students, we have no control over whether or not other offices increase their own fees. In the past, they have consistently done so, which is why you may have noticed an increase in your Student Life Fees each year despite the Student Activities Fee remaining constant.
The vote next week is to make a proposal to raise the fee by $4.50. It is of course possible that this proposal is modified or rejected by the administrative offices that review it, in which case the Student Activities Fee will be raised by some value less than $4.50, or not at all.
This proposed increase is not recurring. If accepted, it will take effect in the AY 2015-2016. Any future increases will need to be proposed in future years.
This proposal is the result of months of discussion with council treasurers, governing board leaders, and interested students. While we think that we have come to a reasonable  compromise for sustainable funding, we would absolutely love to hear your input.

[Editor’s note: Email edited for brevity]

As noted in the email, you are encouraged to attend the open meeting on Sunday, 8 pm in the Satow Room on the fifth floor of Lerner.

*A previous version of this post failed to note that this is a joint announcement between CCSC and ESC.

With that much money at stake, there better be a vote via Shutterstock