ASI embraces fee increase

Initially facing a staggering deficit, Associated Students Inc., began to draft a budget for the next year, drastically cutting funding to its student organizations and programs.

What they didn’t anticipate was that students would elect to pay more out of pocket to fund campus life.

“We started planning for the absolute worst case scenario when we created our budget for next semester,” said Franko Ali, the new vice president of University Affairs. “I’m happy that we get to start on a new budget.”

Students voted April 28 in favor of the $12 fee increase over the next three years, which should restore some of what was originally cut from next semester’s budget. The governing board will examine which programs are most utilized by students, and they will be funded accordingly.

Approximately 1,640 voted last Wednesday and Thursday, with 63 percent of voters approving the referendum, according to ASI election results.

“Students will get better services and programs now,” said ASI president-elect Andrew Gutierrez. “We don’t just want to restore money, we want to see if we want to fully fund or even enhance programs. We don’t want to throw a chunk of change in and see what happens. We want the money to be used to better serve students.”

Student fees will go up $12 over the course of three years, with a $9 increase the first year, $2 the second and $1 the third. The fee increase will be implemented this fall.

Students currently pay $42 in student fees for ASI, which go toward funding for student organizations, such as the Women’s Center and Project Rebound, and job opportunities.

“With this money, we get to go back to what we stand for,” Ali said. “There’s always hesitation about cutting away at student organizations, but now we’ll be able to put money back in.”

For some students, fee increases are only justified if the funding goes directly toward their education.

“Everyone’s suffering right now, so even $12 is a lot to ask,” said Vickie Hall, a humanities major. “I’d rather see the money support academic programs, but I guess it really depends on what organizations get money.”

ASI has not increased its fees since 1992 and therefore has not caught up with economic inflation. Gutierrez said the increase may not help combat tuition costs, but will add to the quality of the campus experience.

“As a student, I’m hurting as well. We can’t control that, but we can aid the campus,” he said. “I understand (students) can’t get into classes, but I can offer a service for their higher education, like legal resources or events that encourage them to get involved.”

Members of the board praised this election, which garnered 5 percent of the campus vote in two days. This is in contrast to the ASI elections, which received 10 percent of the campus vote over five days.

“I’m confident that we could have got more than 10 percent of students if the elections lasted all week,” Gutierrez said. “I’d really like to thank students who voted yay or nay for getting out there and being proactive.”