Under the ASUAF umbrella: Student government funds a variety of campus activities

Heather Bryant/Sun Star Reporter
May 1, 2012

Of all the student fees at UAF, the ASUAF fee is perhaps the most confusing. The ASUAF fee, sometimes known as the student government  fee, is several fees in one. Every UAF student taking three or more credits pays $35 in the fall and spring semesters and $10 in the summer. That amounts to a yearly revenue of approximately $533,000.

Just more than half the of the fee money collected, 51 percent, stays with ASUAF. Of the remaining funds, 27 percent goes to KSUA, the campus radio station. Fifteen percent goes to the UAF Concert Board and seven percent goes to The Sun Star. ASUAF’s student senators decide the percentage of allocation for the fee.

The current rate of $35 has been in place since 2005. Before that, the fee was $30. An effort in 2008 to raise the fee to $42 failed.

The fee structure at UAF differs significantly from that at the University of Alaska Anchorage. At UAA,  those enrolled pay a student government fee of $1 per credit — to a maximum of $12. UAA students also pay a $10 Concert Board fee and an $11 Media fee, which is split between the Northern Light newspaper and KRUA, the student radio station.

ASUAF

ASUAF’s 51 percent equals approximately $272,000. ASUAF then allots funding to five areas: general administration, executive office, association departments, senate and association projects.

Administrative costs includes salaries, office costs such as phone and supplies, beverage service for students, international student Polar Express cards and an attorney retainer. This is estimated to cost $117,000 this year.

The next most expensive section in the budget is the senate. The student travel fund, club council projects, senate projects and committee contingency funds — along with a number of other costs  — add up to an estimated $101,000.

Other areas of spending involve salaries for nine employees, including the ASUAF president and vice president. Senators don’t get paid.

At the start of the current fiscal year ASUAF had more than $200,000 in an ASUAF Trust account. The trust, sometimes called the “rollover” or “carry forward” account, is unspent money from previous years. In the past the trust fund has grown to $260,000. ASUAF can spend money from the account if two-thirds of the student senators vote in favor of a bill allocating money from the account.

Chancellor Brian Rogers said he has spoken with both the current ASUAF president, Mari Freitag, and her predecessor, Nikki Carvajal, about the considerable size of the trust account. “If it’s not being spent then what’s the purpose of charging students?” he said.

“Biggest problem is our rollover,” ASUAF Senator Robert Kinnard said. Kinnard has been a part of ASUAF for two years.

“Students have not seen their fee being used,” Kinnard said. “We’re not being a service but a disservice to the students when our own budget is not being utilized.”

There is a board that oversees the rollover fund, according to Freitag. But that board has not met in some time. “I intend on working through this issue this coming year,” Freitag said in an email.

Though student government manages nearly a half-million dollars per year and has hundreds of thousands at its disposal at most times, the government is truly student-run. There is no oversight by UAF staff. ASUAF, unlike most student organizations at UAF, does not have a faculty advisor. Kinnard initiated a ballot proposition to create a paid advisor position in last week’s spring election. The measure did not make it to the ballot because the petition was not worded correctly. Additional legislation to put the question on the ballot also failed. However, the ballot included an opinion poll question. The unofficial election results show students favoring an advisor for ASUAF with 62 percent of voters saying they agreed or strongly agreed.

“I would like to see ASUAF ask for an advisor,” Brian Rogers said, “but the tradition at this university is very much student government is an opportunity for students to have full expression of their powers and rights. So to a large extent we stay out of their business even when we think they are doing dumb things.”

“I will say that I think that having an advisor will be beneficial to ASUAF,” Freitag wrote. “Given that all of our plans are carried out without problems we will have one by this fall.”

The Sun Star

The Sun Star receives seven percent of the student government fee, which averages $34,000 per year. A student “ad manager” sells advertising to make up the difference between ASUAF funding and the approximately $90,000 it costs to operate The Sun Star and its affiliated website each year. The newspaper employs roughly 16 students.

“Sun Star has always been marginally funded,” Chancellor Brian Rogers said. “Going back to when I was editor and on staff in the early ’70s it was hard to make it.”

For the fall 2011 semester, each issue of the newspaper cost an average of $2,300 to produce. This includes the cost of articles, photographs, editing and website work for that issue. Other costs for the paper include office costs such as phone, fax, printing and supplies. Currently there is no  budget for items such as computers, cameras or audio gear. In past years, The Sun Star staff paid for such items through Technology Advisory Board grants.  Most contest entry fees and travel to the annual Alaska Press Club conference in Anchorage is paid for by the staff out of pocket.

One of the biggest costs of the paper is printing. Each issue costs as much as $1,000 to print depending on the number of pages. The Sun Star is printed at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on the cheapest paper option available.

“Though The Sun Star is a training operation, the final product is still held to many of the same standards as professional news operations,” Sun Star advisor Lynne Lott said. “It’s a tall order.”

According to a budget document from Oct. 2011, The Sun Star finished the 2009 and 2011 fiscal years with a deficit.

(Full disclosure: Heather Bryant is the editor of The Sun Star)

Concert Board

Concert board receives $5 of each student government fee, which works out to approximately $65,000 each year.

The board is student-initiated and run by students with the assistance of Cody Rogers, who is also the assistant director of the Student Activities Office. Concert Board plans and coordinates concerts and events at UAF.

At UAA, the Concert Board receives $10 per student each semester.

UAF Concert Board has two sources of revenue — the student government fee and ticket sales. The Concert Board funds student stipends which are an alternative to salaries and a subscription service for pricing musical acts. The bulk of the budget pays for performing artists’ contracts.  It can cost thousands of dollars to bring artists to Fairbanks, according to Cody Rogers.

For example, bringing The Black Keys to UAF would cost more than $150,000, estimated Cody Rogers.

In 2010, the Concert Board brought The Nappy Roots to Fairbanks. More than 1,200 people went to see them, giving the show near-record attendance for a Concert Board event. Still, the concert cost the board just less than $20,000. Ticket sales brought in roughly $7,000. The difference is covered by the fee money.

“We’re not jacking up the ticket price,” Cody Rogers said. “We’re keeping a really low ticket price.”

Concert Board member Rosemary Paz said that concerts like Nappy Roots are a “big part of the college experience.” The board came about because students wanted it, Paz said. “This should be an available outlet for students to come and voice their opinion.”

According to a budget document obtained from ASUAF, the Concert Board finished the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years with a deficit.  ASUAF allocated an additional $30,000 to Concert Board last fiscal year, 2011.

KSUA

KSUA 91.5 FM is the student radio station at UAF. The station is also revitalizing its TV division. KSUA receives 27 percent of the ASUAF fee, or approximately $145,000 each year.

There are seven paid students who work for KSUA radio and two students who work for KSUA-TV.

“With over 80 student volunteers we have one of the biggest support systems involved with ASUAF,” Ephy Wheeler said. Wheeler is the station’s general manager and has been with KSUA since 2008.

The costs of running a radio station runs into the thousands with equipment and licensing fees eating up much of the budget, Wheeler said.

“Luckily our budget allows for us to update our equipment every couple of years,” Wheeler wrote in an email. “Major updates like our automation system only happen about every 10 years, and in this case, every 11-12 years.”

The station got new computers and software in 2011. The bill, including installation, was approximately $17,000.  Recent upgrades to the television station cost roughly $5,000. The TV crew downsized a more expensive plan for the TV station.

As a radio station, KSUA must comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Alaska Broadcasters Association guidelines. The inspection costs run about $300 per year. And then there’s the music royalties. Playing all those songs costs KSUA about $4,000 every year.

KSUA also sponsors events and outreach such as its booth at the Tanana Valley State Fair.

This year, KSUA gained national attention when the station placed in the MTV Woodies top-three college radio stations in the country.

We have about 20/24 hours a day, seven days a week of occupied airspace with live DJs,” Wheeler said. “Not only have students really grown to love KSUA, but we continue to win awards.

Budget information provided by ASUAF in October 2011 showed KSUA finishing 2009-11 fiscal years with an average surplus of $59,000.

Student Feedback

If students have questions about the ASUAF Fee, Freitag invites questions.

“Students should feel free to inquire about the ASUAF fee and how it is spent,” Freitag wrote. “All information that is not confidential regarding personnel is public to any who desire to inquire about it.”

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3 Responses

  1. Jennifer Chambers says:

    The Trust Fund and rollover are completely separate things.

  2. Editor-in-Chief says:

    When information regarding the ASUAF rollover account was requested, the ASUAF Trust Account was what was provided as a response to that inquiry. If ASUAF has additional accounts that were not disclosed when The Sun Star requested information on all ASUAF accounts, I would be happy to include the additional information as soon as it is provided.

  3. Jennifer Chambers says:

    As far as I understand it, we did provide the information to the Sun Star. Nevertheless, ASUAF has a trust fund, which consists of funds that resulted from selling off our assets when we were a corporation. This fund (I believe it totals approximately 200 thousand dollars) has been used to provide matching funds for the blue and gold scholarships. I believe that it was also used to provide a loan to KSUA years ago, which they have since paid back.

    The rollover account consists of funds from previous fiscal years that were not utilized. I do not know the exact amount of money in the account. Last year, ASUAF allocated $50,000 from the account to go towards the rock/ice wall. We also purchased new office computers with rollover funds. We tried to give Concert Board $30,000 from rollover as well, but this ended up not happening due to university polices, not any action on our part. We are currently looking at allocating the $30,000 from this years’ budget so that the funds will be transferred to Concert Board’s account.

    I would also add that we have had substantially better budget information this year than any previous year that I have been involved with ASUAF and I do not expect that we will have any unutilized funds at the end of the fiscal year.

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