With campuses gone virtual, student governments diverge on student body fees

A large grass lawn with a few tall trees is flanked by cream college buildings with red tile roofs.
With classes moving online for the fall, student governments have had to reevaluate student body fees. (Mabel Lui • The Student Life)

Student body fees are collected semesterly by student governments to finance on-campus clubs, organizations and events. With the virtual fall semester, student governments across the 7Cs have had to reevaluate student fees, as many clubs are forgoing purchases for in-person meetings, such as food for social events, art supplies and other goods.

Adjusting to the change, some colleges’ student governments reduced or waived fees altogether, and others charged them in full. ASCMC, ASPC and SAS made no changes to student body fees, ASHMC collected 80 percent of fees and Pitzer College Student Senate was the lone student governing body to abstain from student fee collection. 

“We decided not to collect student activity fees this semester to lessen the financial burden on our student body,” Cameron Stockford PZ ’23, Pitzer Senate’s vice president of finance, told TSL via email.

The Senate came to this decision last spring and recommended the change in student fee collection to the Budget Committee of the board of trustees over the summer, Stockford said.

ASCMC charged $142.50 in full for virtual fall student body fees, putting the funds toward various funds including ASCMC-planned events and workshops, Dawson CMC ’21, chief financial officer of ASCMC, said via email.

The ASCMC budget for the virtual fall semester was significantly lower than usual — over $79,000 less, or 78 percent of what it would have been during an in-person semester.

Dormitory and student activities budgets saw the greatest decreases, about 30 percent and 35 percent respectively. The student activities budget does not allocate any funds toward events normally held in fall, such as Toga Party, but lists spring activities, such as Wedding Party and Pirate Party, as fully allocated.

While funding allocations for CLORGs are 22 percent less than initially planned this semester, Dawson noted that ASCMC made additions to their expense policy to accommodate the circumstances of fall semester, including allowing CLORGs to list expenses such as various shipping costs and costs associated with virtual community-building events. 

“Every officer of our Executive Board is working hard to plan events, workshops, and activities that are effective uses of ASCMC funds, and the decisions made in budgeting for a virtual fall reflect that,” Dawson said. “We have made efforts to continue to provide campus groups with the financial flexibility to program as they see fit, while considering the financial realities of responsible budgeting given our means.”

Scripps charged $109 for student body fees and is putting the funds toward CLORGs as well as SAS activity budgets, online events and the Funding Advisory Committee, which includes academic testing resources and individual academic needs, according to Melinda Ximen SC ’23, SAS co-treasurer.

“[SAS is] also hoping to hold more COVID Relief Funds where we reimburse students for their grocery/medical/necessities expenditures,” Ximen said via message. “Last semester we hosted a COVID Relief Fund and reimbursed 100 percent of the students that applied, to a total of [about] $13,000.”

SAS treasurers asked in July that CLORGs and SAS positions with activity budgets to submit new budget requests to better understand and justify the event and activity allocations, Ximen said.

“We want to shift more of a focus on the COVID Relief Funds and FAC spending where we can support students academically while we stay remote,” Ximen said.

Both Dawson and Ximen said they discussed the possibility of a student fee reduction with administration and were informed that a cut in student body fees was not feasible. 

“Over the summer, I checked with CMC administration to investigate the possibility of a student fee refund or decreased collection. I was informed by the college that a decreased collection of fees would not be possible for the fall,” Dawson said. “ASCMC intends to revisit the possibility of a student fee refund or decreased collection for the spring semester.”

Ximen shared a similar hope for the upcoming semester. 

“We are hoping to start the discussion of the spring semester student body fees sooner and work with admin on a way to reduce student body fees next semester, given how much we were able to save from CLORG allocations this semester,”she said.

ASHMC was able to reduce student fees by 20 percent this semester, lowering the semester fee from $150.50 to $120.40. According to the HMC student account portal, the $30.10 difference was credited to student accounts. First-years were also charged a $250 orientation fee.

“Before HMC went all remote, we wanted to account for the difference between on-campus versus off-campus remote students, which is why we had remote students pay 80 percent of dues,” Caitlin Huang HM ’22, ASHMC’s treasurer, said via email. 

Student fees are distributed to clubs and used to fund ASHMC events, Huang said. ASHMC gave clubs the chance to resubmit their subject requests and has approved individual reimbursements for club items.

According to their budget, ASHMC collected nearly $100,000 in student dues this virtual semester. Eight of its 35 clubs are inactive for the fall semester.

An ASPC representative did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and their budget for the fall semester is not currently available to the public. According to their website, ASPC collected a student body fee of $197 this semester.

As for Claremont graduate schools, both Keck Graduate Institute and Claremont Graduate University will be collecting student body fees with no change in fee structure from previous in-person semesters.

According to Divij Gulati KGI ’21, KGI’s student government treasurer, student fees are a part of tuition expenses and were kept to put an online education system in place and install hand sanitizing stations throughout the KGI campus.

The CGU Student Government charged $245 for student body fees this semester according to its website. A representative did not respond to requests for comment, and the budget is not accessible to the public.

Correction: A previous version of this article said Melinda Ximen SC ’23’s interview was conducted by email, rather than message. TSL regrets this error.

This article was last updated Oct. 1 at 1:37 p.m.

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