The Student Activities Fee, and with it the College’s termbill, should rise in order to better fund student groups, the Undergraduate Council recommended in a report released last Sunday.
The report, spearheaded by UC President Danny P. Bicknell ’13 and UC Vice President Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13, calls for an increase in the Student Activities Fee, a portion of the yearly termbill totaling $75 per person which the UC uses to fund student groups, club sports teams, campus events, and House Committees.
These recommendations come in a year when the UC depleted its grants funding completely, the first time that happened in recent memory, according to Bicknell.
“We had to cut grants by 80 percent in the last grants package," he said. “We’re in a really tight spot, and it’s unfortunate for student groups."
The last time the Student Activities Fee rose was in 2006. According to Yalamanchi, the average fee at Harvard’s peer institutions is $190. Some schools, such as Brown and Stanford, have much higher fees—$214 and $357, respectively.
The increase the report calls for, if approved, would take effect in 2014 and would raise the fee from $75 to "somewhere between $115 to $160," said Yalamanchi.
Bicknell and Yalamanchi launched a working group on campus funding last year. Meeting with groups involved with funding such as club sports teams and College deans, the group examined sources of funding and developed recommendations that, apart from the Student Activities Fee increase, were meant to improve the distribution of funds.
In addition to advocating for increased sources of revenue, the report suggests that the UC replace physical checks with online transfers and that different funding bodies, such as the Phillips Brooks House Association, synchronize their deadlines to simplify the application process for student groups.
Assistant Dean of Student Life Emelyn A. dela Peña said she is proud of the work that has gone into the report and sees providing more resources to student organizations as a "good thing for student life."
"The data supports the need for increasing the Student Activities Fee," she said. "However, I think that we need to research more about how it is going to affect financial aid, how is it going to affect students—particularly our hi-fi [high financial aid] students, and how is it going to affect the finances of the College. There are a lot of moving pieces."
The actual increase in the Student Activities fee will be announced once the Harvard Corporation and Financial Aid Office agree on an amount, though at this point, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds is "very much in favor" of adopting the report’s findings, according to Yalamanchi.
"Our money has been stretched in so many different ways," said Yalamanchi. "The original purpose of grants was to facilitate student life, but right now we’re only able to subsidize it."
—Staff writer Quinn D. Hatoff can be reached at email@example.com.