Student Fee Board Talks Historical Context, Longstanding Student Fee Challenges
The Student Fee Board met Friday morning to discuss new operating procedures, accompanied by a duo of thoughtful public commenters in Madeline Nyblade from Penn State Eco Action and former UPAC Chair Jesse Scott.
Nylbade addressed the Board to inquire about the possibility of restructuring a student “Green Fee” or “Sustainability Fee” based on a similar fee that was proposed last year. The previous proposal was denied by last year’s Student Fee Board because of the vague nature of how the funds would be stewarded to specific projects.
Jesse Scott, a graduate student who has been involved in the evolution of the student fee and served on the Student Activities Fee Board and as chair of the University Park Allocation Committee, offered some advice — or perhaps more “food for thought” — to the Board on the historical context of the Student Fee.
To begin with, he brought up the facilities fee debt that remains from 1995. As of March 2017, the facilities fee carried more than $25 million in debt. The modern Student Fee is expected to contribute about $10 million each year until the debt is retired, which would be during the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
As part of the 2017-2018 Student Fee, $114.32 of $258 (or 44 percent) went to fund the facilities fee debt. So far, the Board hasn’t engaged in extensive public discussion on what will happen to the student fee after this debt is paid off.
Scott also discussed assessment of how those who receive allocations used their funding in the previous year. “Where is the reporting?” he asked. “Where is the actual evaluation of how the money is spent after you’ve allocated it?”
The Board discussed reporting options later in its meeting Friday morning, including the possibility of requiring each unit receiving an allocation to submit a final report at the end of each year, which could be published in the interest of transparency.
Finally, Scott explained the biggest challenge of programs funded by the Student Fee: Students don’t know about them. He said he feels the Student Fee Board has an obligation to ensure students know about the programs it’s funding, and should provide support — in kind or financial — to help funded programs succeed in this manner.
The Board spent the majority of its biweekly meeting discussing operating procedures moving forward, from internal voting procedures to what components will be required of units submitting funding proposals. Members will continue to work out the details of these procedures in the coming weeks to solidify more on how the Board will operate moving forward.