The Student Assembly of the State University of New York (SUNY SA) is proposing a new fee that would charge students across all SUNY schools a fee of $0.50.
According to Austin Ostro, vice president of the SUNY SA and a senior at the University at Albany majoring in political science, the assembly convened a committee of student government presidents representing every academic sector to reach a recommendation on creating a permanent funding model for the assembly. The proposal to establish a $0.50 fee was reached unanimously.
“In short, all increased revenue will go towards strengthening the Student Assembly’s advocacy efforts, presence on campuses and to offer students new opportunities,” Ostro wrote in an email.
Ostro wrote that the proposed fee would allow more Binghamton University students to attend SUNY SA conferences, allowing them to apply for new scholarships and grants that would be open to students across all SUNY schools. Ostro also wrote the fee would cover a number of University projects, such as renovations.
“[The fee] would also allow the Student Assembly to have a greater advocacy impact on legislative items that would benefit BU students, like greater support for infrastructure project priorities like renovating 48 Corliss Avenue for the School of Nursing and the Bartle Library,” Ostro wrote. “It also would allow us to strengthen our impact on issues that affect all students across the system, including students at BU like closing the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) gap, meeting student mental health needs and more.”
The assembly, which is currently funded through a combination of tax support and a one-time capital infusion from the SUNY Chancellor, Kristina M. Johnson, that is due to expire at the end of the 2019-20 academic year, aims to provide a medium through which SUNY students can communicate with the SUNY Board of Trustees and administrators.
For the proposed fee to take effect, the SUNY Board of Trustees must act on the SUNY SA’s recommendation. Ostro wrote that if the fee passes, a plan will be prepared to inform students of the logistics of the fee.
“We would ensure that all planned internal and external financial controls are in place before the fee is enacted,” Ostro wrote. “If the Student Assembly endorses the creation of the fee at their conference, we plan a direct engagement campaign to spread the word and gather input on priorities for increased revenue before moving to create the fee on the SUNY Board.”
Harry Bittker, BU Council student representative and a senior majoring in political science, wrote in an email that SUNY SA representatives have been receptive to including a student input process as they negotiate some final details.
“Details are still being finalized, but we’re working on making sure that students aren’t just notified, but that we engage with them on any proposed fee or fee increase,” Bittker wrote. “I felt it necessary to ensure that we outline principles for a student input process, and that SUNY not only puts such a process in the final policy, but that they do so specifically because the students said that it mattered to them.”
According to Bittker, if the fee is implemented, it would give the SUNY SA a budget of roughly $400,000. At a Student Association Congress meeting on March 25, Bittker said he would be in support of the fee, according to meeting minutes.
“In my opinion, as long as it is spent well and we have student input, I am fine letting this move forward,” the minutes read.
However, not all students are a fan of the proposed fee. Zoe Velez, a freshman majoring in nursing, said that although the fee may be small, the SUNY SA shouldn’t be charging students across all campuses before looking for other ways to fund itself.
“It’s not a matter of the amount they want to charge us,” Velez said. “But, it’s the principle that truly matters. It’s just not right.”