Fees rules vary across Big Ten

Students at some schools pay nothing, while others are assessed hundreds of dollars.

by Ryan Dionne

Other Big Ten universities face obstacles similar to the University’s when dispersing student fees, but each has a different fee structure.

The amount Big Ten students pay also varies – from nothing to a few hundred dollars.

This school year, University Student Services Fees totaled $20 million, funding approximately 35 organizations or programs.

A combination of students and faculty form the 16-member committee that allocates the fees. Students pay approximately $300 per semester. The entire fees process takes several months.

The University of Wisconsin’s fees are perhaps most similar to the University’s and were involved in a fees system court case that set national precedence.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin could require students to pay fees, even those funding political or religious groups.

“Madison is sort of the flagship for the country,” said Eileen Lalor, University of Wisconsin student fees task force co-chairwoman.

University of Wisconsin students pay between $250 and $300 a semester that funds student groups and larger campus organizations including health services, recreational sports and the student union.

To receive funds, Lalor said a group must apply for eligibility and then put a budget proposal together for review by a 16-member finance committee.

The committee determined four groups ineligible this year, Lalor said. Approximately 25 groups currently receive funding.

Ohio State does not have funds like Wisconsin or the University, but it supports more organizations than they do, according to university reports.

The largest of Ohio State’s $2 million student fees budget funds campus-wide events, such as Monday’s Chris Rock concert, which was free to students.

This is the first year the school collected student fees.

“When we surveyed people, the overwhelming response was, ‘Hey, put the money to big campus events,’ ” said Frank Sasso, vice president for the Ohio State undergraduate student government.

Students there pay $15 each quarter in fees.

Unlike the University, Ohio State’s groups can apply anytime during the year, Sasso said. Registered student organizations that apply are awarded $500.

If an organization wants more money it can ask for up to an additional $3,500.

Because the money is given on a first-come, first-served basis, one group could receive the maximum $4,000, while another group could get nothing.

“That probably happened this year,” Sasso said.

The University of Michigan allots approximately 120 percent of what it collects in fees, yet they said they do not run out of money.

The university allots more money than it has because groups seldom use all the funds allocated to them, he said.

“About 100 percent of groups get funded,” said Greg Graves, the university’s Budget Priorities Committee chairman, “but they only get about 60 percent of what they ask for.”

If the money is not used, it does not carry over to the next semester, Graves said. Instead it is rolled back into the central account and redistributed.

Groups registered with the Michigan Student Assembly can apply three times per semester. This way groups are not forced to speculate about how much money they will need a year in advance, Graves said.

The University of Iowa also funds many groups.

“We try to make it where every group, as long as they are within guidelines, gets some funding,” said Eden Simmer, Iowa’s chief financial officer.

With an annual budget between $750,000 and $775,000, 150 to 300 groups receive funding, University of Iowa officials said.

Because some need more money than they are allotted, Simmer said many groups do fund raising to cover expenses.

Each student contributes $19.50 per semester to student fees, but they can opt out if they choose. Most pay the fee.

“We never know how much we are going to get until the last minute,” Simmer said.

University of Illinois students can choose to not fund two organizations – Student Legal Services and the Tenant Union.

Out of 3,800 students, 500 to 600 opt out per semester, said Susan Pile, a Student Organization Resource Fee administrator for the university.

Students contribute $10 per semester to the organization.

Groups at the university can apply for funds 13 times per year.

Unlike many universities, University of Illinois organizations must apply for a specific event on a specific date, Pile said.

University of Indiana student fees do not directly fund student groups.

Student government is allocated $151,000 per year, said Alan Grant, the university’s Congress vice president.

Of that, $140,000 is set aside for nonreligious and nonpolitical organizations, he said.

Groups must either ask the student government for money or fund-raise it.