The 29 organizations that are part of the Students’ Initiative have gathered more than the 2,130 student signatures necessary to get the fee increase on the ballot for next week’s special election.
The final signature count comes to 3,500, said Associated Students President Jared Goldschen. According to the A.S. Legal Code, in order for the $100 per student per quarter fee increase to pass, a simple majority of students, or 50 percent plus one, needs to vote “yes” on the initiative. The minimum voter turnout is 20 percent of the student body.
Students can vote on the initiative from Oct. 23 to 26 on GOLD.
The fee initiative of $300 per student per year is split among 29 organizations – 18 of which are A.S. entities, 11 of which are independent. A 25 percent return-to-aid surcharge, which pays for financial aid, will be added onto the fee, making the total cost per quarter roughly $133. In addition, a Cost of Living Allowance will be placed on the $133 in five years. Accounting for inflation, estimates place it as being between 3 and 7 percent.
All groups involved will observe a five-year moratorium on further fee increases, including all A.S. entities, Goldschen said. The students will vote to reaffirm the individual fees in two years.
UCSB students currently pay $868.92 in campus-based fees, the second most in the UC system. A.S. Executive Director Don Daves-Rougeaux said UCSB students are the only students UC-wide who get the option of retracting and reaffirming campus-based fees.
In the few weeks since campaigning efforts for the initiative began, supporters and opponents have brought their concerns to the Daily Nexus opinion pages as well as Facebook.com.
As of Wednesday night at 12:30 p.m., the “Vote Yes” group on Facebook had 429 members, while the “Vote No” group had 327 members.
Students’ Initiative advocates are collecting pledge cards for those who plan to vote “yes” on the increase in next week’s election. The supporters will also host a forum today at the MultiCultural Center Theater at 4 p.m. for those interested in learning more about the initiative.
The $100 fee initiative, which was split between the 29 organizations based on need, will go mainly toward maintaining existing programs, and next toward reinstating old and implementing new programs, Daves-Rougeaux said.
Two of the biggest recipients of the money are Recreational Sports, which would receive $11 per student per quarter, and Student Health, which would receive $9 per student per quarter. Associated Students is the largest recipient of the fees, with a $30 per student per quarter potential increase.
Goldschen said A.S. decided to bundle the 29 fees into one initiative because student services support the community, not just the individual. Even if a student does not use all the services listed, he said, a “yes” vote is a vote of support for all student services for the UCSB community.
“All those in need can be supported,” Goldschen said.
The founder of the Facebook group opposing the Students’ Initiative, third-year biopsychology major Sam O’Hanlon, said she does not like the “all or nothing” aspect of the bundled initiative and formed the group as a forum for those who want to discuss it.
“I’m putting myself through college,” O’Hanlon said. “If it’s your money you should be able to say who you want to support and who you don’t want to support.”
Daves-Rougeaux said the initiative is about community, and A.S. could have gotten its base fee increased without the other organizations. He said in past elections, such as the one two years ago, a large number of students approved the fee increase but the threshold to pass it was too high, as it required 66.6 percent of students to vote “yes.” Last spring students passed a new constitution for A.S., which lowered the threshold to 50 percent plus one.
“I think A.S. could have easily gotten the base fee increased,” Daves-Rougeaux said. “We have the support, but it’s about being responsible for the community.”
The initial “needs assessment forms” and budgets provided by the interested student services organizations brought the original Students’ Initiative total to $136. By cutting some of the new programs and fixing some of the redundancies, such as Intramural Sports receiving two shares of money, a group of student leaders convened on the matter and arrived at the final sum of $100, Goldschen said.
Goldschen said $100 was the upper limit for the fee increase, a sum the leaders agreed students could and would pay each quarter for the next five years or until the organizations go up for reinstatement in two years.
“We looked at the needs assessments and decided on the threshold for students,” Goldschen said. “We decided it would be too much to ask for more than $100 because it was too much for us.”
Historically, the university has covered some of the expenses of student services through student registration fees, Daves-Rougeaux said. However, he said with the 2004 education budget cuts, the university took a $3.3 million cut in registration fees spread over four years. This translated into a $533,000 cut from student services, including Student Health and Community Affairs Board, with no promise that the funding would be reinstated, Daves-Rougeaux said.
“We’re trying to get caught back up from what was cut,” Daves-Rougeaux said. “Then we’ll reinstate [programs] and enhance.”
The $30 base fee for A.S. would support all A.S. boards, committees and commissions who request money, A.S. administration and the A.S. Finance Board, which provides money to student groups, Goldschen said. A.S. currently receives $9.10, a fee that has not been raised since 1974.
A.S. Finance Board has a budget of approximately $17,000 to give out this year to student groups who apply to the board with a plan for money allocations. If the initiative is passed, the Finance Board budget could increase to between $75,000 and $100,000 for the year, Goldschen said.
Though the five-year moratorium applies to all A.S. entities, he said, base fees and Finance Board funding is available to those that did not choose to be part of the initiative. Academic Affairs Board, Commission on Disability Access, Queer Commission and Student Lobby are some A.S. groups that are not part of Students’ Initiative.
Daves-Rougeaux said A.S. is not necessarily in danger with the current funds it receives, but it cannot expand.
“We are able to function as an organization with what we have,” Daves-Rougeaux said. “We can’t provide funding for student organizations at any significant level and we can’t grow.”
As for Rec Sports, Director Paul Lee said the initiative money would go toward maintaining current costs and programs such as Intramural Sports, Sport Clubs and Adventure Programs for students. It would also be used for offering student employees more competitive salaries.
In August, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will gradually increase minimum wage to $8 per hour over the next two years. Beginning in 2007, the minimum wage will be $7.50, a level that Lee said they cannot currently support.
“It’s not just that we’re getting this money and we’ll be rolling in dough,” said Sean Ryan, Rec Sports employee. “We’ll keep offering our programs at the same price.”
Rec Sports currently gets $7 per student per quarter from a lock-in fee, while Intramural Sports gets $2.50 through a separate fee that was reaffirmed by students last spring. According to a budget provided by Lee, of the additional $11 awarded, $6 will go to Sport Clubs, $4 will go to Rec Sports administration and capital expenditures fees and $1 will go to Adventure Programs.
Intramurals would receive $2.50 through a separate share of the initiative fee. Lee said Rec Sports initially requested $15 from the initiative.
Operational costs for Rec Sports total about $3 million per year, according to Lee. The program, including Intramurals, gets approximately $50,000 from the university and would receive approximately $800,000 in campus-based fees from students. Lee said Rec Sports also earns money by charging for participation in Intramurals, Sport Clubs and Adventure Programs.
“We owe it to the student body,” Lee said. “Even if this passes, it doesn’t come near what we need.”
Student Health Director Elizabeth Downing said about 45 percent of the organization’s share of the fee would go toward maintaining the level of services at the clinic, even with the 10 percent in health care inflation each year.
“Sometimes we think we’re nickel-and-diming our students to deal with inflation,” Downing said. “We just need the money to keep things steady, which is much better for our students in terms of their healthcare needs.”
Other priorities for the $9 per student per quarter increase include offering extended hours on Thursday evenings, hiring two additional mental health professionals and scheduling more hours for the nurse advisor who acts as a triage nurse for the clinic, Downing said. Extended clinical and nurse advising hours would receive approximately 10 percent of the new funding, while about 35 percent would go toward the mental health hires.
Student Health currently receives $19 in campus-based fees per student per quarter, a fee that has not been raised for about 30 years, Downing said. She said funding also comes from university registration fees and those enrolled in the Undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan, which sets aside about $42 to administration fees.
She said the proposed increase in services would be available to all students, not just those with university insurance.
“We’re always struggling to stay afloat,” Downing said. “With the fee increase we would be able to offer students more and better services.”