WUSA introduces new, optional fees for student life and enterprise

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Graphic by alice zhao

Two new UW undergraduate endowment funds are now open to voluntary student contributions as per a WUSA Students’ Council decision announced Feb. 25. 

The only two endowment funds on campus intended solely for student needs and initiatives, the Student Life Endowment Fund (SLEF) and Enterprise, Opportunity, and Innovation Endowment Fund (EOI) will now be displayed on tuition statements.

“Each year between the SLEF and EOI Fund, more than approximately $130,000 in funds is awarded to groups for innovative ideas, start-up projects, conferences for students on-campus, and investments in student space, accessibility, and other resources,” Seneca Velling, VP Operations and Finance at WUSA, said. 

The Students’ Council states that the SLEF is put in place to fund student projects that help improve and maintain the undergraduate student experience at UW. SLEF will be a termly optional fee valued at $25 beginning the Fall 2020 term.

“Since the spring of 1992, undergrads contributed to the fund through a compulsory fee…That fee was discontinued for some time, but has now been reintroduced by Students’ Council — this time as a voluntary fee, to increase the principal balance of the fund to $3-4M,” Velling said. 

SLEF contributes to projects in areas such as the improvement of health, wellness, and safety on all campuses, the improvement of accessibility on all campuses, the renovation to student operated or managed spaces, and more. 

SLEF’s counterpart fee, the EOI fund, will also be available as a voluntary fee termly valued at $5 beginning the Spring 2020 term.

“The [EOI] fund has awarded $25k each year to student projects, start-ups, and opportunities for students’ professional and academic development. As the amount of applications to the fund has skyrocketed in recent years, the current expendable balance is not enough to support demand,” Velling said. 

This demand includes a need to assist the costs of student projects, student led entrepreneurship and start-up ventures, one-time student projects, helping to facilitate attendance at conferences, and professional or academic development opportunities. 

As increasing opt-out rates on optional fees decrease funding for certain student life initiatives across campus, Velling states students will find these new optional fees attractive due to tax reductions.

“As more than 70 per cent of all UW Students participate in co-op, most students earning income file their taxes, and this means they can use the tax receipts they receive from donations to UW’s Endowment Funds to both benefit students in the long-term without actually seeing too much impact on the bottom-line,” Velling said.

However, these fees are not meant to offset student opt-out rates — instead, they represent a joint or coordinated effort by WUSA to improve student life. 

It is an additional fund which students and student groups are encouraged by WUSA to apply for regardless of if they have opted out of the fees or not. 

“Opting-out of the fee does not limit, in anyway, a student or groups ability to apply for funds. This is a donation to support students, not a fee for direct funding for student services or programming,” Velling said.

While these fees do not directly invest into funds associated with improving student life, they indirectly help sponsor student initiatives.

“The structure of these contributions is as an investment in the future. 

The voluntary student contribution paid each term contributes to the principal balance of the fund…  [which] provides expendable allowance that can be awarded as grants to students or student groups applying for funds,” Velling said.

WUSA believes students should continue to base their decision to opt out of optional fees based on what value and long-term return on investment they see these fees having for students, and believes in the students’ ability to support critical investments at UW.

 

“Overall, students have exhibited a culture of giving support to areas [of] critical investment at UW, including supporting investments in academic and experiential resources, in the past. Investing in student life is something many students resonate with,” Velling said.

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