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OP-ED: Raising the student activity fee should be the last resort

If the student activity fee were increased, would the benefits to student life on campus outweigh the financial burden this would put on students? That question is not so easily answered. Queens College’s student activity fee is currently $162 per student. With approximately 20,000 students attending QC, this means there is an estimated amount of $3.24 million dollars devoted to fund over 100 clubs at QC. The money also covers organizations such as the Committee for Disabled Students, the Child Development Center and services for students such as the QC shuttle bus.

Clubs and student life are vital to the college experience and important resources that all students should have access to, but many of these organizations have increasingly faced financial strain. For instance, The Knight News’ club budget has decreased from $10,000 in the 2016-2017 fiscal year to $7,500 in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Some clubs and student life groups are unable to function solely off of their student activity fee budget.  “Given the financial constraints the school faces, clubs and organizations have to seek alternate routes of funding for the events they want to plan, such as Student Association Event Funding (SAEF),” reports Siddharth Malviya, Student Association Vice President. SAEF, another source paid for by the student activity fee, is alternative funding for student clubs and organizations that may not have the budget to host the club events they would like. However, the SAEF budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year is only $60,000. While the budget may appear to be a large sum, club events could cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. Any increase in the student activity fee could allow for expansion or enhancement of major campus events and popular clubs. The expansion could enrich students’ experiences by providing more opportunities for connection, as Queens College is a commuter school.

While clubs and student life funded by the student activity fee are undoubtedly an extremely important part of the college experience and what QC has to offer, increasing the price could have adverse effects on many students. Increasing the activity fee would also result in the rise of total fees students are expected to pay each semester to attend QC. Depending on the amount of increase, this could be a huge burden on countless students, many of whom are commuters and unable to take advantage of the very activities and clubs they would be paying for. Students that are struggling to make ends meet could be pushed to their financial breaking point. Other students are simply too busy to make use of the clubs and student life, and shouldn’t have to pay more for their college education to fund something they are not benefitting from. “I have a two hour commute… so four hours a day of travel. As much as I may have one activity or another that I may want to get involved with, I have that two hours looming over my head and I’d rather get started on it,” remarked Aidan, a senior English major. Attending QC and paying for an education is not something we should be making more difficult for anyone.

Before we consider increasing the student activity fee, we first need to determine if there are any other possible avenues where clubs and student life could obtain funding, without further burdening students. We must thoroughly examine if the money currently being used by clubs and student life is being used as efficiently as possible. Perhaps students would benefit most from a redistribution of the current funds among clubs and student life. If clubs and student life are still in need of more funding, they should then exhaustively consider other routes where funding can be achieved before turning to students. 

If, after exhausting all other avenues for funding, clubs and student life are still unable to function properly on their budgets, then we should consider increasing the student activity fee. Ultimately, I believe the negative impact of increasing the student activity fee would far outweigh the benefits of increased resources for clubs and student life.

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