Ohio State students pay a $37.50 student activity fee every semester to be distributed among services for students. The money’s allocation and the decision behind the process, however, is a conversation that keeps many students in the dark.
In the fiscal year 2012, the student activity fee generated $4.48 million, said Office of Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs. He said it usually generates about $4 million.
“The amount distributed is a little less because of things like staff salaries and resources (such as the student resource room in the Union),” Isaacs said.
In 2012, the amount of the fee that was distributed between the Ohio Union Activities Board, the Discount Ticket Program (D-Tix), student organizations, student governments, Signature Events, Buck-I-SERV, and Pay it Forward was $3.97 million.
OUAB receives more than half of the student activity fee funds. Mia Grube, president of OUAB, said the group received 53.2 percent, or $2 million, of the money generated from the student activity fee for the 2012-2013 academic year.
OUAB is the group behind Flicks for Free at the Union, craft nights at the Union, the live music series in Woody’s Tavern, movies on the Oval and more.
“Other than those set events, we have a lot of freedom and are not required to do the same types of things each year,” Grube said.
Grube said OUAB spends as much of its allotment as possible during the year, and the organization keeps detailed records to stay on track.
“Every year, we spend as much of the funds we are allotted as possible, which requires meticulous planning and bookkeeping,” Grube said.
Grube said the group has never gone over budget.
Members of OUAB tend to overestimate the cost for events to make sure they will have enough to cover every activity, Grube said.
The percentage of the funds OUAB receives has fluctuated over the last 9 years.
“When the student activity fee was created in 2003, OUAB received 55 percent. When the (student activity fee) increased in 2010, OUAB’s portion changed to (about 52.7) percent. Last spring was a scheduled review year for how the fee is allocated, and OUAB’s percentage increased slightly to its current levels,” said Grube in an email. Grube could not give the reason behind the percent fluctuation.
Some OSU students feel that there should be more awareness made about the fee that is tacked onto regular tuition fees each semester, while others feel that the amount OUAB receives is high, but possibly worth it.
“It seems like it’s a lot of money, $2 million,” said Eric Clemens, a third-year in computer and information sciences. “I would like for it to go down, but I find it worth it every now and then,” Alexxa Kuhn, a third-year in communication, said she didn’t even know that such a large percentage of the fee went to OUAB.
“I don’t mind it, but I guess I would like to know a little more about it just because you are paying money for it,” Kuhn said. “I don’t really have that much money, but I’m not opposed to paying for it for the extra stuff, but maybe (with) a little more awareness.”
The Council on Student Affairs, a subcommittee of the University Senate, makes decisions about the structure of the student activity fee, according to the Ohio Union website. CSA is a representative group of undergraduate, graduate and professional students and faculty and staff members.
“As a general matter, the fee is controlled by the CSA … This ensures that students are ultimately in control of how student activity fee dollars are allocated and spent, and the council vigorously exercises its oversight responsibilities for the fee,” said Peter Koltak, chair of the Council on Student Affairs.
The CSA ultimately decides the fund allocation of the student fee. While the percentage of the fund that each organization receives is accessible, the reasoning behind the allocation and the fluctuations in percentages cannot.
Koltak explained that the fee allocation is determined every five years in a comprehensive review, with smaller reviews during the years in between.
Members of the CSA declined to comment on the reasoning behind the fund allocations.
Clemens thinks the number seems high, but said he does attend some activities offered by OUAB and the student activity fee.
“I actually, yesterday, waited in line for a really long time to get tickets for Louie (Louis C.K.) at OUAB,” Clemens said. “Louie is probably the best comedian of this year. So they’re not just having cheap shows, they’re having top-notch entertainment going to OSU.”
While the fee might be worth it to some students, not everyone feels that way.
“It’s worth the money, but if there were a way you could opt into it, I think that would be better,” Clemens said.
Halie Williams contributed to this article.