This is the fourth installment in our Demystifying the Money series, which breaks down Cal Poly student tuition and fees. Check back next Monday for our fifth and final installment on health facility and services fees.
In the executive order, guidelines were laid out which made it clear this new fee was not meant to supplement tuition, nor was it a part of Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) fees. Instead, an IRA fee is an out-of-class project that furthers the lessons learned in the classroom — “activities which are considered to be essential to a quality educational program,” Reynolds wrote in an email.
The IRA fee was originally approved in 1978 by the CSU Board of Trustees, although the order wasn’t issued until 1983. The fee was created to give extra funding to instructional extracurricular activities, and free up ASI funds for other clubs and programs, CSU public affairs assistant Liz Chapin said.
“The demand was because the funds for lab equipment and lab fees, for example, were being taken out of the student body,” Chapin said.
The presidents proposed the IRA fee as a solution, and it has been helping to fund a variety of activities, clubs and projects at Cal Poly since the early ’80s — activities that go far beyond just labs.
For the 2011-12 school year, Cal Poly allocated $980,900 in IRA money to support campus activities.
Current Cal Poly IRAs include projects from all colleges, such as the Tractor Pull Team, the Student Construction Management Competition, Students in Free Enterprise, Engineers Without Borders, Cal Poly Debate and Mathematics competitions and the Mustang Daily.
Any student group can apply to receive IRA funding, but only groups that meet the criteria in the 1983 executive order are recognized as IRAs, said Jessica Carson, an administrative analyst for the office of academic programs.
Carson helps students apply for IRA status by working with them and their faculty coordinator to establish whether or not the project furthers instruction.
“I can steer them in the direction that will make it more clear as to whether they will be a club or an (IRA),” Carson said.
The proposals for new activities, which were due Feb. 17, are then reviewed for eligibility by the IRA Advisory Committee, a group of students and administrators.
Most activities that go through the application process are approved, Carson said.
Being recognized as an IRA does not always guarantee funding, though.
The money collected from the fee is divided up among the colleges by number of students, while the university also keeps a portion to support university interest IRAs and university interest-student affairs IRAs. University interest IRAs are activities that benefit the general student body, while student affairs IRAs are similar but have less of an emphasis on instruction and more on enriching the college experience, Carson said.
Student affairs IRAs include programs such as Safer, CultureFest and Ally and Awareness Training.
With 151 different IRAs between the six colleges and the university, funding can get tight, said academic programs administrative support coordinator Delores Lencioni, who has managed IRA applications for the past three years.
“When it comes down to it, the college may not have enough money on their part,” Lencioni said.
In 2011-12, 118 of the 151 recognized IRA programs received funding. The programs that were not funded are not taken off the list, however.
Even if it receives no money for several years, an IRA program will remain an IRA until taken off the list by its college.
For many colleges, IRA money is one of the last sources of funding for instructionally related projects. Because the money cannot be diverted toward faculty pay or classes, it all goes toward supporting programs not normally funded by the university, said Robert Dettweiler, director of the school of education.
In 2010-11, the school of education received $10,000 for its own IRA, Teaching and the Arts. The program attempts to make up for the amount of money being cut from arts education every year by educating future teachers in incorporating the arts in an everyday classroom setting, Dettweiler said.
“Arts, music and drama have been reduced,” Dettweiler said. “In our case, we were trying to help our future teachers.”
Across Cal Poly, IRA moneys are put to similar purposes — funding projects that would go unfunded without the IRA fee.