Changes to Student Fee, ASWC Budget Explained at Town Hall

Ben Kunz, Staff Reporter

This past Thursday, Feb. 17, the Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) Finance Chair, senior Chris Meabe, gave a presentation on potential changes to the ASWC budget and student fee.

ASWC collects over 90 percent of its $569,939 budget for the academic year through the student fee, which is currently set at $390. In addition to the fee, ASWC collects interest from its $450,000 endowment which is invested identically to Whitman’s endowment. As of the most recent Board of Trustees visit from Feb. 7 to Feb. 9, ASWC will also receive, starting next year, $25,000 from the Board of Trustees’ Discretionary Fund to put toward the eventual goal of paying every ASWC employee minimum wage. That sum is new this year but will be annually renewed as long as ASWC continues to put it towards its intended purpose.

ASWC employees include all senators and members of the Executive Council, employees of the Whitman Events Board (WEB) and campus media organizations, and the Outdoor Program Manager. ASWC members themselves are not paid hourly, but given a stipend depending on their position.

ASWC’s considerable budget pays for WEB, clubs, club sports and campus media organizations such as the Wire, blue moon, Quarter Life, and KWCW.

“I want ASWC to continue having the same sizable role on campus, and inflation means things will continue to get more expensive,” said Meabe. This has led to incremental increases in the student fee over past years.

There are only two rules for setting the student fee; first, it cannot exceed 1 percent of Whitman tuition (which is currently $450), and it must be an even number so the budgeting office can divide it per semester in whole dollar increments.

Next year, Meabe proposes making $25,000 of cuts in order to battle rising costs. When asked about how the cuts would be distributed, he replied, “I don’t think anything would be cut more than 10 percent except for the yearbook.” Some money would be taken from WEB, overall club funds and the student travel and development budget (which helps club members pay to attend conferences and special events). Ideally, the budget would leave at least $5,000 in reserve in case enrollment unexpectedly decreases or other costs arise.  

Meabe gave three fee options in an email to the Wire. The first is a fee of $398, which would give ASWC the same budget with no cuts, after adjusting for inflation. The second is $380, which would include $25,000 in cuts. Lastly, is a fee of $394, which includes the $25,000 in cuts and paying minimum wage to employees of the Wire.  At the senate meeting on Sunday, Meabe will advocate for the third fee option.

Shelby Cutter ‘19, a member of the finance committee, is also in favor of the third option. “This is a middle ground that includes conservative cuts, paying the Wire and gives us a buffer in case some cost comes up unexpectedly,” she said.

The final student fee price will be decided in meeting, open to the public, in Reid Ballroom at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25. The budget will be finalized separately in April.

While The Wire receives funding from ASWC, we retain complete editorial control over what is published. While we do not normally publish content related to The Wire we see the issue of the ASWC budget and student fee as relevant to the Whitman community at large.