Challenges with unchanged Student Fee call for dialogue

The recent discussions surrounding the student media fee have brought unprecedented awareness to the funding we, as students, provide this institution. I come to you as the student on this campus with the most experience allocating the student body fee to ask you to consider the effectiveness of your yearly $360 charge. Every spring, organizations are understandably frustrated with their allocated budget. 

However, without raising the student body fee, it will be impossible to meet the amount organizations are asking for. It is time for us to have a more involved conversation of what we want the student body fee to be. I don’t think an immediate raise is the best solution, or even possible at this point, but I do think this is a conversation that demands the attention of as many students as possible, and it needs to be an informed decision.

To provide some context, I joined the Finance Committee (FIN) my freshman year, when it was still the Student Organizations Committee (SOC). This was before the FIN/SOC merger, a decision made in order to increase the number of students at Allocations Weekend in the spring of 2021, and overall simplify financial processes. I have attended Allocations Weekend for four years and organized the process as Director of Allocations (DoA) for two. As the DoA, I moved organizational budgets to spreadsheets, introduced the spending tracker, updated and consolidated the new Finance Committee bylaws and moved Allocations Weekend to before spring break in order to give the senate more time to review the Allocations Recommendation and keep the process as far away as finals as possible.

The funding Finance Committee uses during Allocations Weekend is based on predicted enrollment numbers for the next school year, and therefore fluctuates yearly. The more students attend Lewis & Clark, the higher the number of student fees are collected, the greater the amount we have access to distribute. However, when enrollment is lower, so is the amount we can allocate. The current student fee, something every student pays, hasn’t been raised since 2011. When compared to similar institutions, it is one of the higher fees in the region. ASB began discussing a possible raise in the student fee back in 2021, after Allocations of that year. At the time, many members of the Senate opposed raising it, myself included, citing the pandemic and the increasing costs due to COVID-19, as the main, but not only, reason to postpone a raise. 

Another reason to postpone a raise was many organizations were not spending all the funding they were awarded. I argued that the Finance Committee should establish practices to encourage more spending before asking students to pay more in student fees. But the discussion on the student fee has never left Senate & Cabinet meetings, especially as the total Allocations request grows every year. 

This year was remarkably somber. With the funding we have access to in the spring, $10,300 less than last year, even funding every organization’s minimum would result in going over budget by over $260,000. And although the appeals process exists to make up for the necessary cuts in the spring, it was still extraordinarily difficult to find places to cut funding by the end of the second day of Allocations. 

For four years, I have argued against a raise in the student fee. I still believe it would be inappropriate to implement one in the next few years, but it is something we should start considering in the near future. When the Allocations request increases, so does the amount the Finance Committee has to cut. The frustration of student organizations who are forced to wait for the appeals process in the fall to secure the funding they need to operate is not unnoticed by members of the committee. 

This past March, every new round of cuts over the course of two days was agonizing. As your peers, we are also involved in the organizations, sports, clubs and symposia on campus, although we cannot advocate for the budgets of the organizations we ourselves participate in. We want to see these projects grow and flourish, and the limitations of our budget hinder our ability to support organizations to the fullest extent. 

I, personally and on behalf of the Finance Committee members, sincerely appreciate the understanding of student organization leaders concerning our relatively limited budget this year. I also believe that it is time to seriously begin the conversation concerning a raise in the student fee, and not just in ASB meetings. The goal of the Finance Committee is to utilize the student fee to enrich the experience of every student here. If organizations want the funding they request in the spring, without waiting for appeals in the fall, the student body needs to consider whether they are willing to pay for it. 

If you have any questions about the allocations process, or are interested in joining FIN, please contact 

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