Proposed fee follows lead of other schools

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Yale will be the last Ivy League school to institute a student activities fee if it implements a proposal that will go before a campus-wide vote next Tuesday.

Although a portion of students’ tuition currently goes towards funding student activities, students have not paid a separate activities fee like the optional $50 charge under consideration in more than two decades, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said. Yale students did pay an activities fee about 25 years ago, Trachtenberg said, but in response to student complaints the fee was integrated into general tuition. But a survey of other schools across the nation reveals that Yale’s lack of a student activities fee is fairly rare.

Yale is the only school in the Ivy League that does not have a student activities fee, according to a report issued by Harvard’s Undergraduate Council last spring during an HUC push to raise Harvard’s activity fee from $35 to $75. The HUC’s campaign resulted in a $25 increase.

“It’s not a lot of money to begin with,” Harvard junior Joe Geschlecht said. “And now that it’s increased, the student body has been putting on a lot of good shows.”

Previous Yale College Council boards have pushed for a similar student activities fee in the recent past, but YCC President Andrew Cedar ’05 said the YCC’s effort this semester is different because this is the first time the administration is willing to consider implementing the fee if student support is high enough.

Cedar also said recent budget cuts indicate that the fee may be more necessary now than ever before.

“If we continue on the path that we’re on with funding, there won’t be things like Spring Fling anymore,” Cedar said.

Even with the recent increase in Harvard’s fee, the university is still at the low end in the Ivy League, according to the HUC report. Brown University students pay a fee of $136, Columbia students pay $245, University of Pennsylvania students pays $141, Cornell students pay $162 and Princeton students pay $60. Dartmouth students are required to pay the most, with an activities fee of $540. At each school, student governments or student finance committees oversee the allocation of the money raised by the fees. The money usually goes to funding student organizations and social events, the report said.

Outside the Ivy League, fees are frequently even higher.

Stanford students pay a $90 fee each trimester. The University of Colorado at Boulder charges students $431, $93.35 of which supports one of the largest student unions in the country, University of Colorado Student Government office manager Sylvia Khaton said. The University of Colorado student union, which houses restaurants, legal services, student clubs, a pharmacy and even a bowling alley, receives about $15 million a year from the fee, Khaton said.

“We have quite a bit of autonomy,” Khaton said. “The recreation fee budget is controlled by the students.”

MIT students pay $200 while those at Tufts pay $226. Students at Penn State pay $49 per semester, but this fee is not covered by financial aid, Penn State spokesman Tysen Kendig said.

“It’s not considered a part of tuition, so it’s not covered by financial aid,” Kendig said.

The activities fee proposed for Yale would be included in calculations for financial aid, Cedar said. The $50 fee would automatically be charged to students’ bursar accounts and students not wanting to pay the fee would have to officially opt out at the beginning of the year. The proposal, if approved by the administration, is expected to bring in about $215,000 in annual revenue, YCC Treasurer Andrew Schram said.

Busta Rhymes performs at Harvard in a concert paid for with student activities fees. Yale students will vote on an optional activities fee Tuesday.
Courtesy HarvardCrimson
Busta Rhymes performs at Harvard in a concert paid for with student activities fees. Yale students will vote on an optional activities fee Tuesday.

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