Student life director answers student activity fee questions

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Non-voting chair says the notion of an increase in the fee is possible.

by Pam Paz

ppaz2@student.alamo.edu

Richard Farias, office of student life director, wants students to know how the funds from the student activity fee are spent.

Every student at the Alamo Colleges pays $1 for every credit hour they are enrolled in, which goes toward the student activity fee.

“I want it to be very transparent,” Farias said of the fee in an interview Sept. 25.

The student activity fee budget for fiscal year 2015 is $336,016. The fiscal year began Sept. 1, 2014, and ends Oct. 31, 2015.

The money is allocated into six categories.

Salaries

The fee pays for the salaries of the two full-time student success coordinators, Mark Bigelow and Jacob-Aidan Martinez, which totals $130,772. Another $3,500 pays for two coaches. The men’s extramural coach is Louis Martinez, and the women’s is Haley Capestany.

The original budget indicated $14,000 would pay for one part-time student success specialist; however, the money was redirected toward activities and recreational sports.

“We thought that money for the part-time position was paid out of the fee, but it’s not. It’s paid out of hard money, so that $14,000 was redirected to rec sports,” Farias said.

Student life and recreational sports

The office of student life and recreational sports receives $97,794 from the fee. Student life activities and programming, such as karaoke, films or dance lessons, receive $68,794; recreational sports and intramural programming, such as team sports, receives $29,000 from this fund.

Farias said finding coaches delayed the start of the basketball season. Last year, students served as coaches, and math Professor Steven Ochoa and kinesiology instructor Raul Rodriguez acted as the team advisers.

“Basketball was popular, but went away,” Farias said. “The problem is that it was just a team – unfunded, no coaches, the students were coaches, that sort of thing, and they did well. Seeing that there was faculty engagement, which is huge, and seeing that they had started something from nothing, we decided that we would start basketball again this year. It took us awhile to get the coaches hired, so that’s why we got started a little late.”

SSFAC funds

The student services fee advisory committee designated fund is allocated $75,000. This helps pay for trips and other expenses generated by clubs and organizations, whose members must apply to SSFAC for those funds.

The SSFAC is composed of five students and four faculty/staff members who represent the nine-member voting committee.

Farias serves as the non-voting chair, a position he assumed at the end of May. He said the goal is to try to fund all the organizations that apply.

Of the $75,000, $60,000 is allotted to SSFAC applications. Farias said applications for this year started coming in as early as May. He said the money is awarded on a first come-first served basis. “The earlier you apply, the better,” he said.

Last year was the first time in a long time all the money was spent from the fee committee, Farias said.

To date, they have awarded almost $47,000 to various clubs and organizations such as dance club, society of physics students, Phi Theta Kappa and others.

A new initiative this year is the SAC student club and organization success benchmarks. All clubs are required to re-register through OrgSync, update a roster of officers and student members with Banner IDs, ensure all members listed on the roster have an active OrgSync account and update financial information on OrgSync. In addition, club officers must attend an OSL risk management workshop and present a 30-minute risk management overview to members at each meeting.

The other six benchmarks include uploading minutes for at least four meetings, completing one community service project with at least six members present, participating in at least three campus fundraisers, sending an officer or designee to at least two Inter-Club Council meetings, evaluating the status of the club or organization at least once and requesting the $250 incentive reward from SSFAC.

The incentive reward is given to clubs and organizations completing all 12 benchmarks.

“The goal of the benchmark is to create a process where any club can get money from the student activity fee simply by doing the things that show us they’re an active club and by showing us they’re a registered student organization,” Farias said.

The remaining $15,000 pays for events and other activities hosted by clubs and organizations. They do not have to apply for those funds.

Cultural, student government and equipment

Cultural committees, such as Hispanic Heritage, black history and women’s history, receive $10,000, and the Student Government Association receives $8,000.

Equipment and supplies for Loftin are allocated $10,000.

Farias said he knows not all students are able to take advantage of all the events on campus because of schedule conflicts.

“It’s difficult to take care of students who only come to school at night, but I’d be open to ideas,” he said.

Farias said there is a suggestion box located outside the office of student life on the second floor of Loftin Student Center. Students could also email suggestions to him directly.

Farias also mentioned that applications to SSFAC have increased and the scarcity of funds has reignited conversations about doubling the fee to $2.

“It would be great if a $2 fee existed. It would make more room for more funds,” Farias said.

Though the committee realizes raising the fee could be a burden to some students, it’s not a huge increase, Farias said

“The students don’t know enough about how their money is spent, and we want to make sure students know how it’s spent so they realize all the ways the increase could benefit them directly,” he said.

Farias said he would like to look into getting student feedback by having focus groups and surveys. Though he’s not sure how this would happen, he said students should also take initiative in voicing how their money is spent.

For more information about the student activity fee, visit http://alamo.edu/mainwide.aspx?id=996 or email rfarias14@alamo.edu.

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