When you’re paying tens of thousands of dollars a year on a college education, it is easy to miss an additional $200 charge. That’s why the term Student Activity Fee (SFA) might be news to many students, even if they’re already paying it. According to policy created by the students, at Cornell University undergraduate students will be paying a $236 student activity fee for the 2014-2016 byline funding cycle. That figure is up 3 percent from the 2012-2014 byline funding cycle, when it was $229.
So how does this money get spent? Cornell’s Student Assembly determines how the money gets divvied up. Even though more than $200 is coming from every student’s pocket every year, finding someone to talk about how that figure came to be—or why it’s even needed—is a frustrating process.
Eventually, media relations office employee Joe Schwartz was kind enough to point out that the breakdown of how SFA gets collected and distributed is actually available in an out-of-the-way corner of the Cornell’s website.
The student activity fee allocation list is vast. The biggest allocation is $90 to the Student Assembly Finance Commission (SAFC) and $18 for the Slope Day Programming Board (SDPB). Other recipients include Athletics and Physical Education ($10), Cornell Cinema ($10), Big Red Bikes ($1), Cornell Concert Commission ($12), Senior Week, ($5), and Convocation ($12), among dozens of others who receive between $1 to $8.
According to Cornell policy, “new organizations are rarely approved for byline funding.” It adds that in most cases, the undergraduate SAFC is more likely to come through with funding. Unlike SAFC funded organizations, SAF byline-funded organizations may obtain simultaneous funding from both the SAF and the Graduate and Professional Student Activity Fee (GPSAF), which must be applied for separately. GPSAF collects more than $80 from individuals per byline-funding cycle. That money goes to recipients such as Big Red Barn ($7), GPSA Finance Commission ($28), and Club Insurance ($6), among others. New applications for the 2016-2018 SAF allocation process will be available begging on Sunday, Feb. 1 2015.
At Ithaca College (IC) there is no student activity fee per se. According to Senior Associate Director for Media and Community Relations Dave Maley, funding for the recognized student organizations comes from a regular budget allocation made in IC’s Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life. The students themselves, through the Student Government Association, make the actual decisions as to how those funds are used. According to IC’s website, “the Vice President of Student Affairs and Campus Life budgets Ithaca College funds for student organization initiatives. This money is reserved for the exclusive use of student organizations and is allocated by the Student Government Association (SGA). To be eligible for SGA funding, a student organization must complete the recognition process.” There are currently 197 student organizations at IC.
Maley said IC does not disclose specific budget numbers, but added that the allocation “is sufficient to support the programs sponsored by our student organizations, especially when complemented by their own fundraising efforts. In addition to the regular budget allocation, funding for student organizations at IC comes from raised funds, gifts and donations, and the residence hall association. §