NEWS

Student fee helps support programs

Access to scholarship information and career counseling are among the top funding priorities for students, according to the 2011 UA Student Services Fee survey.

The fee provides about $2.5 million in funding to different services and programs on campus each year, according to its website. The funding comes from the $80 fee students pay each year, with a small portion of that money going to administrative fees and programs at UA South.

Student Affairs has administered a survey the past several years to gauge student support of funding initiatives. This year, the 36,573 undergraduate and graduate students who paid the fee were notified of the survey through an email invitation and 5,521 usable responses were compiled, according to the survey’s report data.

More than 75 percent of students supported funding the top five initiatives, which include access to scholarship and financial aid information, expanded career-related opportunities, academic support services, career counseling and career-based learning and internships for juniors and seniors. The survey results will be used by the Student Services Fee Advisory Board, which is composed primarily of students, to help choose which proposals to fund.

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“The main purpose is to provide the board with a tool,” said Jim Van Arsdel, adviser for the Student Services Fee Advisory Board and assistant vice president of Student Affairs. “But it’s one of several tools.”

Departments within Student Affairs can submit proposals for funding by mid-January. The board recommends which proposals to fund, and the allocation is ultimately determined by Vice President of Student Affairs Melissa Vito, Van Arsdel said.

The Think Tank is funded in part by the fee as well as services such as Project RUSH, which allowed the hiring of additional employees to expedite the lines for financial aid questions. Initiatives to increase late-night security on campus also received funding in the past, Van Arsdel said.

Board members take their personal experiences and conversations with students into account as well as the survey, said Daniel Altomare, a senior studying business economics and history who has been co-chair of the board for two years.

“We consult it to make sure it’s somewhere near what students want,” Altomare said.

The board also takes into account initiatives that will help improve the school — such as alcohol awareness and social justice programs — that do not necessarily rank high with students, Altomare said.

Differences in priorities between graduate and undergraduate students are also considered, Van Arsdel said. The board comprises both types of students who each represent the student body as a whole, he said.

The board will begin meeting weekly next semester and make funding recommendations by March, Altomare said. The board looked at about 30 proposals last year, he said.

The survey and proposal process also serve to make the fee more transparent, Van Arsdel said.

Some students, like Stephanie Smith, a freshman studying business economics and English literature, said they do not know where their fee money goes.

“I do look at it but never do research on it,” Smith said, adding she did not remember receiving the survey.

Smith said the allocation of the fee needs to be clearer for students.

“I think they should do a better job,” Smith said. “If I don’t know what it is, that’s an issue.”

Students who follow the survey and allocation process will become more informed about what they are paying for, Van Arsdel said.

“It serves to enhance the visibility of the fee and its usage,” Van Arsdel said. “Obviously we’re trying to engage students in a conversation about that.”


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