Item is on the agenda of the board of trustees meeting March 20.
By Kimberly Caballero
The Student District Council is pushing a $2 increase for the student activity fee, tripling the activity fee of $1 per credit hour per semester students pay now.
For full-time students taking 12 hours a semester, the increase entails a student activity fee of $36 per semester compared to $12 a semester.
If the board of trustees votes to pass the proposal, the $882,000 in 2017 fiscal year student activity fee funds for all five colleges combined could climb to $2,646,000, if enrollment were to stay the same.
The Student District Council’s mission is to “consolidate the college-level student government leadership into a districtwide council to identify and address student concerns, issues and solutions,” according to the council’s constitution provided by the Dr. Adelina S. Silva, vice chancellor for student success.
“It’s new, only in the third year. It was initiated to have a strong student voice,” Silva said in a March 9 interview.
Quintin Longoria, business administration sophomore and chair of the council, presented a slide show at the March 6 board of trustees meeting as a committee of the whole. The slide show reviewed the council’s purpose in proposing the increase.
“An increase in student engagement activities” and a “capacity for future growth” were a couple of the proposed fee-increase outcomes he presented.
“I have been very critical of expenses like this in the past,” District 2 trustee Denver McClendon said. “My concern is how many students actually take advantage of this program? We’re talking about a 200 percent increase in a fee, which is significant.”
Longoria clarified how, if the student activity increase were approved, the revenue it raises would be spent.
He said cultural celebrations would be expanded and more programming would be provided, along with other activities, including those that are technology-related.
All of the Black History Month celebrations that took place in February at this college were funded by the student activity fee.
Another purpose of the increase is to help fund the Alamo Institutes, Longoria said in a March 15 interview.
He elaborated on what the Alamo Institutes is but also stated that as a student he does not have all of the details about the program.
“What the Alamo Institutes is supposed to do is innovate how our students learn,” Longoria said. “It takes them beyond the theoretical, traditional learning of the classroom and it’s going to gives them a curriculum that is engaging and is activity-oriented to help them practice their skills that they’re learning in the real world.
“There’s going to be new opportunities in the classroom and opportunities to extend the classroom learning outside the classroom in ways that we haven’t experienced before.”
District 3 trustee Anna Uriegas Bustamante expressed concern over the increase and questioned how it will help part-time students.
“I have a bit of a concern considering this is an increase in tuition. It is. Bottom line it is,” Bustamante said. “I do not support an increase in tuition. I just want to know how it’s going to be used and how are you going to reach those part-time students who are also going to pay but won’t be there to possibly take advantage of this.”
The council conducted a student survey across the Alamo Colleges on the $2 increase, with 1,715 respondents, according to the presentation.
The presentation also included a summary of how the student activity fee funds are spent:
“The fee funds academic co-curricular opportunities, leadership and professional development, cultural/ethnic events, intramural/extramural activities, recreational activities, student organizations, social events, and other opportunities.”
The presentation is available on the board of trustees’ are of the district website under the March 6 agenda packet at www.alamo.edu
Of the 1,715 students who responded, 62.62 percent were in favor of the student activity fee increase and 37.38 percent were against the increase.
District 1 trustee Joe Alderete asked for an explanation of why the “minority expressed a negative,” referring to those who voted against the fee increase.
Longoria responded that students voted against the increase because of finances or if they did not plan to take advantage of the services funded by the fee.
He said students might not realize how many on-campus activities they participate in that are funded by the student activity fee.
“A student that gets involved in activities is more successful. That’s been proven over and over and over again,” District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said.
“I’m basically on board with you 100 percent on this. I think this is the right thing to do,” he said.
President Robert Vela gave an example of the activity fee’s potential use.
“The hydrogen fuel cell car. Very expensive to get those students to Michigan,” Vela said.
He is referring to this college’s Motorsport Team’s participation last spring in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition.
Vela continued that a small portion of the student activity fee can go toward similar future “STEM-related experiential learning outside of the classroom that you can’t necessarily get in a classroom.”
McClendon asked if the board approving a $2 increase would allow the council to accomplish what it needs to.
“It would definitely see improvement,” Longoria responded. “There are so many bases that we want to cover, that $2 may not be enough to cover all those bases.”
At the March 6 meeting, the board determined the proposal for the student activity fee $2 increase would “move this forward as full consideration by the board.”
In a March 9 email, Kristi Wyatt, associate vice chancellor for communications and engagement, confirmed the proposal is “being submitted to the full board on March 20 for discussion and possible action.”