A Closer Look: Student ASWU fees

The month of April at Whitworth is one that is full of preparations for the next school year — budget meetings, scholarship applications, housing lottery and ASWU elections; the list can become lengthy. And of course, all those topics are directly involved with money, particularly ASWU and its mandatory $226 annual student fee. Whitworth ASWU had a budget of $454,260 for the 2012-13 school year, funded by the mandatory student fees, said Matt Valdez, financial vice president of ASWU. The budget provides funding for a variety of programs, clubs and salaries across campus. Nearly 45 percent of the budget pays for the salaries of officers, media and administrative positions.

“All ASWU elected officials are paid,” ASWU President Ian Robins said. “A lot of people get paid and a large portion of our budget goes to salaries; it’s true for all organizations.”

Twenty-seven coordinators and executives are paid and fees also cover partial funding for salaries of full-time administrative workers.

The remaining 55 percent of the budget after salaries are paid goes directly to the funding of clubs, programs and events at Whitworth. No club is given a guaranteed amount of money, but each club has the ability to petition for and requisition funding.

“There is no limit as to how much money a club can receive,” Valdez said. “New clubs have a limit on how much they can receive, which is around $300. It’s a safety so you don’t spend too much on a new group before they get their wheels going.”

Hannah Walker|Graphic Artist

Each club has the opportunity to meet with a committee and request funding. The committee then looks at a variety of criteria to influence their decision to approve or reject funding, such as attendance of council meetings, how big the club is and what the impact on campus is, Valdez said.

“We always ask, are we getting our bang for our buck?” Valdez said.

Money in club accounts rolls over every year, but leftover money that was allocated for coordinators goes back into Whitworth capital accounts for the following year.

The ASWU budget also funds several campus and community programs run by students. Green Dot, Community Building Day, B.E.L.I.E.F. and the Chapel are all paid for by ASWU funding.

“Our funding goes directly to campus and a lot of things that help our campus and community,” Robins said. “Pretty much every student has their hand in it somehow.”

The ASWU budget can only be used for student programs such as events or clubs and can’t be reallocated to university-related funds.

“A common misconception with students is that they see ASWU funds and university funds as the same thing — why spend money on this when they’re shutting down the Costa Rica Center or something like that,” Robins said. “Tuition dollars are separate from ASWU fees.”

The mandatory student fee for ASWU is essentially the only source of funding for the budget. A portion of a coordinator’s salary is subsidized by Student Life, but there are no other sources of funding, Robins said. Individual clubs and events have the opportunity to increase their funding through fundraising.

The budget for ASWU is decided every year with a specified budget committee that spends two days looking at incoming student estimates for the next school year to create a conservative average.

“We do that on purpose in case we get less students than we planned,” Robins said.

If there are more incoming students than anticipated, excess unallocated money goes directly to a fund for clubs to requisition.

While the budget committee consists of students and faculty, Whitworth administration decides whether ASWU student fees increase. The fee for the 2014-15 school year will not be raised.

“When it goes up, it’ll be like everything else; inflation, minimum wage increases,” Valdez said. “I know they’re not increasing this year.”

Junior Mary Lovett said she wants the information on spending to be more clear.

“I think the fee seems reasonable,” Lovett said. “I wish it was more clearly spelled out how they used the funds. I know some of it goes towards officer’s pay and gives us membership, but other than that, I’m not sure what it does.”

Senior Zack Morgenthaler said he feels that a lot of the money may not be taken advantage of.

“I feel like I’ve gotten use out of the fee like with dorm events and clubs,” Morgenthaler said. “There’s a lot of things that I don’t utilize, but everyone is like that.”

A lot of the funding goes to programs behind the scenes, but ASWU is all about transparency for students, Robins said. All budget information, as well as other information, can be found on the Whitworth ASWU website.

“ASWU brings a lot of good things to campus and students get to see that it goes directly to them,” Robins said.

Shelby Harding

Staff Writer