Student Fee Increase Forecasts More Money for Clubs

Lachlan Johnson

On Sunday, Feb. 9, the Associated Students of Whitman College raised the student fee to $360 for the next academic year, an increase of $10 from last year. Senators hope the increase will allow more funding for the Whitman Events Board, clubs, campus media organizations and other aspects of student life funded by ASWC.

In the last decade, the ASWC fee has gone from $236 in 2004 to $360 in 2014, an increase of $124. However, $8 out of the $10 increase this year was due to inflation and to a slight decrease in the size of the student body, which means an increase in the fee was required to maintain the same spending power. Though increases to the fee have been large in recent years, students seem to be content, and no students have brought complaints about the fee to ASWC Senate.

“I feel there should be an option for people not to pay if they don’t use any of the things ASWC funds. But I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t use at least one of those things,” said sophomore Megan O’Brien.

Last year the fee was raised by $14, but student organizations still experienced budget cuts due to the majority of the funds being devoted to the lifecycle fund, which was neglected for half a decade. A change in ASWC bylaws now requires two percent of the budget to be devoted to the lifecycle funds each year; this means a smaller amount will be needed to be placed into the lifecycle fund this year. Combined with the higher fee, this will result in a $25,502 increase to discretionary spending.

In addition to the extra money from the increased fee and proper management of the lifecycle fund, ASWC currently has a $14,000 surplus generated by higher-than-expected student enrollment this year. While some of these funds may be placed in the Travel & Student Development Fund for this semester, most will likely roll over to next year’s budget.

After making hard and sometimes unpopular decisions during last year’s budget process, many within ASWC hope the various sources of extra funds will allow larger budgets for clubs and WEB. ASWC also hopes that the extra funds will prevent the type of conflict seen last year, when ASWC considered not funding the student yearbook, “Waiilatpu.”

“We’re still going to have to make difficult decisions and be frugal with our distribution of funds, but we’re hoping that the extra cushion from raising the fee a little bit will allow us to fund some of the projects we weren’t able to fund last year during budgeting,” said junior and ASWC Finance Committee Chair Tatiana Kaehler.

With so many funds available to increase spending, some senators suggested raising the fee less than $10. While ASWC eventually decided against this suggestion and the new fee was eventually approved without opposition, several ASWC senators raised concerns during discussion of the fee.

“[With more money], the requests that we’re going to be seeing may not be as high quality,” said sophomore senator Anya Tudisco. “I think it’s important the finance committee be required to make hard decisions. It’s what we’re elected to do, and that way we spend money in a more efficient way.”