Saturday, January 20, 2007

Issue of the Day (morning): Student Fees

I was going to spend a good chunk of today going through candidates' platforms. But very few are up, and those that I have I'm not supposed to talk about yet. So I won't.

But there is one issue that we feel is kinda important, and probably worth considering. Which is that of AMS student fees. We think they're probably a wee bit too low.

Consider the following:

  • The AMS discretionary budget is around 1.6 million dollars (out of a total budget of 11.2). That 1.6 includes services (like Safewalk), student government cost, CiTR, and the publications.
  • Student fees account for roughly $3 million of the budget.
  • Each student is directly paying roughly $75 to the AMS each year, about half of which is used for discretionary services.
  • The amount that students pay is not tied to inflation. So when costs go up (and they do), the amount students pay for it doesn't.
  • AMS fees are among the lowest in the country given the scope of our student society.
If the per-student fee had been tied to inflation at its inception, UBC students' fees to the AMS would be almost $200 by now. But they're not. Instead, new, direct-pay fees are added, including Athletics and Recreation fees, the U-Pass, etc. So now students are paying several different fees, most of which grow with inflation, but the AMS one doesn't. Which puts a financial crunch on the AMS, and hurts sustainable growth.

However, a fee increase has to be passed by referendum, which historically runs into problems with quorum. And nobody likes raising their fees. So...
  • Should student fees be tied to inflation?
  • Should student fees be otherwise raised?
  • How can we get a bylaw passed?
  • Do students want to pay more for their services?
It's worth noting that both VP Finance candidates are, in principle, in favor of indexing student fees to inflati0n, and both raise practical concerns about the referendum.