Tyler Junior College continues to collect $2 per credit hour in student life fees, but ends up saving almost as much as it gives to student groups.
The student life fee is charged to students’ tuition every semester but cannot pass the maximum of $26 per student per semester.
The Student Service Fee Advisory Committee (SSFAC) is responsible for presenting the student life/service funding recommendations to the Vice President of Student Affairs. This means that the committee decides how much of the student life fees collected with student tuition should be given to each student organization on campus.
“The committee includes seven student representatives. Five are appointed by the student senate and, of course, I approve those, and there are two students that serve one-year terms,” Vice President for Student Affairs Johnny Moore said. “Then we have two faculty members that are appointed by the faculty senate.”
For the fiscal school year of 2011, which includes Fall 2010 and Spring 2011, $435,648 was collected in student life fees from current students, according to TJC Controller Carol Hutson.
From that amount, according to Regina Williams, Administrative Assistant to Student Affairs, only $275,648 was allocated to student organizations. This means that $160,472 of student life fees was not given to any student group.
For the fiscal year of 2010, according to Hutson, which includes Fall 2009 and Spring 2010, $465,085.86 was collected in student life fees. From that amount, according to Williams, only $95,958 was allocated. This means that $369,127.86 was not given to any student group through SSFAC.
Even though SSFAC decides who gets what, they are not given the whole student fee amount to give out. Student Affairs decides how much money to give away and then SSFAC decides how much of that amount goes to each organization.
“We don’t give them out the whole amount.” Moore said of SSFAC. “Yes, there is a set amount that we go into but you know going through those discussions we don’t say ‘okay we have only this amount so this particular group we only give this.’ We don’t do that. We just look at each individual group individually.”
According to Moore, the SSFAC decides how much money is allocated and how much is not used of the money they are told they have. Student groups must apply for funding.
“The committee is very good,” Moore said. “Just because they have a certain dollar amount, they don’t go into it and say ‘okay we’re going to spend all of that money.’ No, they’re going to allot money based on what they believe is serving the educational purposes or satisfying those three promises.”
The process of deciding how much each organization gets can be a challenging process for SSFAC members.
“You have to take into consideration that there’s a lot of people asking for things that they don’t need,” Student Senate President Andrea Masenda said. “And you have to take into consideration that people are asking for things that they’re not going to follow through with. We’re not going to give you $10,000 so you can throw this event you’re not going to throw.”
According to Masenda, the past two semesters that she has been on SSFAC, they have given away all of the money they were told they could give to student organizations.
According to Moore, the money that is not used is then rolled over to use later on.
“So not all the money is unnecessarily utilized right away because we can use the monies the following year,” Moore said. “Those money roll over, which is a good thing in this economy. Just because it’s not being used, that doesn’t mean it goes away. That means it can be put in for the future.”
Moore describes keeping the money as a ‘rainy day fund,’ that is to be saved in case an organization did not plan for fees that could come up during the semester.
“We’re not going to just, uh, if we have monies, a certain amount of dollars, we’re not just going to…allocate all of those monies,” Moore said. “Just like if you’re at home, if you make a certain amount of money…you’re not going to spend it all…you don’t want to do that because something could come up in the course of the year.”
According to TJC President Mike Metke, TJC is expecting a five percent cut in attendance next fall semester, which would mean a five percent cut in student life fees as well.
“If you spend that money or reallocate it and the money doesn’t come in, you’ve created a bugger budget hole,” Metke said. “So we would rather have some reserved in some circles, and the way we usually try to spend that surplus is on a one-time expense so it doesn’t create a wave that could go on forever.”
Texas Education Code-Section 54.503 states that “All money collected as student services fees shall be reserved and accounted for in an account or accounts kept separate and apart from educational and general funds of the institution and shall be used only for the support of student services.”
According to the Section 54.503, student services means activities which are separate and apart from the regularly scheduled academic functions of the institution and directly involve or benefit students.
These services can include recreational activities, health services, intramural and intercollegiate athletics, artists and lecture series, student publications, student government, and any other student activities and services specifically authorized and approved by the governing board of the institution of higher education.
“Those are specific dollars that have to be spent in student-related matters, which is why it’s called a student life fee,” Moore said.