Full-time students enrolled in 12 credit hours will pay $36 per semester in fall.
By Alison Graef
The board of trustees of the Alamo Colleges approved an increase of the student activity fee from $1 per credit hour to $3 per credit hour at a regular board meeting March 20 at Killen Center.
Students taking 12 credit hours will be charged $36 per semester, a 200 percent increase from the former $12 per semester. Both full-time and part-time students are charged the fee.
The colleges amassed a total of $882,000 in student activity fee funds in the 2017 fiscal year. If enrollment doesn’t change, that will increase to about $2.65 million.
The fee funds co-curricular and extracurricular activities, including student clubs and organizations, cultural events, intramural and extramural activities, professional and leadership development, and recreational events.
The office of student life at this college also uses funds for employee compensation and had used funds to remodel Loftin Student Center.
The Student District Council requested the $2 increase at the March 6 board meeting. Quintin Longoria, business administration sophomore and chair of the council, said the increase would fund more opportunities for student engagement in both extra- and co-curricular activities.
District 2 trustee Denver McClendon objected to the $2 increase. He said he is concerned not about what the funds would be used for, but how the fee increase would affect students financially, calling the increase “significant.”
McClendon asked Longoria if a compromise would be acceptable, if the board raised the fee 50 cents this year and another 50 cents next year.
Longoria said anything to take the “next step” would be acceptable. He said if there was a partial increase in the fee, student services funded by the fee could be increased and then more time could be put into assessing the need for another raise.
“From there, we could take that data and look at where we need to increase more,” Longoria said.
District 3 trustee Anna Bustamante objected to the $3 proposal. She requested a breakdown of how the funds are used and by whom.
Longoria said there is no system in place to count how many students participate in activities provided by the fee. Some events record the student attendees, but the number of unique students versus repeating participants has not been determined.
“If we were to generate a number for you, it could possibly be 500 students who have partaken in 2,000 activities, so we would not be comfortable presenting that information,” Longoria said.
According to the fiscal year 2018 annual budget, The Alamo Colleges most recent unduplicated headcount was 72,123, all of whom paid $1 per credit hour for the fee.
Student District Council members provided a rough breakdown of how the student activity fee funds are used at each Alamo College.
This college’s primary uses of its $273,795 is student life activities and events, funding cultural committees for Hispanic Heritage, Black History, LGBT History, and Women’s History months, the annual multicultural conference, the Student Government Association and for salaries and benefits for the intramural and sports department. The balance is provided to student organizations to support projects and travel.
St. Philip’s College’s funds total $145,746, which funds co-curricular and extracurricular activities, the HBCU History and Reconciliation Oral History Project, homecoming, Women’s History Month events and the Cesar Chavez march. The fee is also used to pay some of the part-time staff.
Northwest Vista College had $249,060, which went to non-academic activities, club orientations, teams, personnel and reserve funds.
Palo Alto College uses its $158,950 for co-curricular activities, student activities, programming locations and student organization expenses. At the college, 50 percent of activities are hosted by student organizations.
Northeast Lakeview College did not have a detailed breakdown for how the college’s $91,850 was used. The funds went to the annual “student activity fee programming and the salaries and benefits for those who are paid from the student activity fee,” said Kaitlyn Carrasco, student district council member representing Northeast Lakeview.
District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery said he was concerned about how the increase would affect the Alamo Colleges’ part-time students, who make up 80.5 percent of the student population.
“Whether or not our part-time students like it, they are paying the same fee even if they’re not using the activities,” Kingsbery said.
However, he said he supports the fee because Longoria said the $3 increase would support co-curricular activities, which Kingsbery believes would benefit part-time students and help engage them in campus life. He said it’s important that part-time students benefit from their activity fee.
As approved by the state Legislature, the funds are not to be used for academic purposes.
“That is probably the most important thing we can do to ensure they have that engagement piece that’s necessary to have them feel welcome on our campuses and stick around and learn some more,” Kingsbery said. “I’m going to put my support behind this, on that idea that you will be going into the classrooms and engaging our part-time students just as much, if not more, than our full-time students.”
Kingsbery’s arguments hold for online students who also pay the fee, some of whom never set foot on a college campus.
District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said he strongly supports the increase because studies at universities and colleges have shown that student activities “benefit the entire student body and the students that participate even more so.”
He continued, “Having the availability of activities says a couple of things to students: No. 1, we care about you. No. 2, we want you involved in college life. And if you’re involved in college life, you’re going to do better academically, and that’s a proven thing. … When we’re talking dollars, we’re not actually talking about a lot of money, so I really think it’s well worth that sum of money to invest in our students.”
McClendon disagreed, saying a jump from $1 to $3 per credit hour is a lot of money to students. He made a motion to increase the activity fee to $2 per credit hour and return to review increasing again next year.
McClendon, Bustamante and District 4 trustee Marcelo Casillas voted in support of the motion, but it failed by a vote of 6-3.
Before the vote to approve the $2 increase, Yvonne Katz, board chair and District 7 trustee, congratulated the Student District Council for using research, conducting polls, talking with students and going through the democratic process to push for the fee increase.
The council surveyed 1,715 students across the five Alamo Colleges about the proposed $2 increase.
“It seems to me that our students are really coming forward with a recommendation to our board,” Katz said. “And what we’re trying to teach in our colleges is exactly what they have just demonstrated to us two weeks ago and tonight. So I am in strong support of what you are recommending — we did not come up with this; this generated from you all.”