Students at Cal Poly pay nearly $10,000 in tuition, but not all of their money goes toward academic and facilities services. 

Each quarter, Cal Poly students pay fees to both Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and the University Union (UU) to help fund activities, events and clubs on campus that enhance students’ college experience overall.

“Our current ASI fee started in 2001 when ASI put out a referendum, which had the number one goal of shoring up more funding for ASI with the fee,” ASI Associate Executive Director Dwayne Brummett said.

Before, programs for Poly Escapes, student government and others were all taxed. When the referendum was in conversation, the Higher Education Price Index was boosted and the new fee was adjusted to fit those numbers. The index is designed to track cost drivers in higher education.

Despite there being different fees for different programs, these fees tend to be organized together because they serve a similar purpose.

For example, ASI fees go to programs that support student activities, including events and programs, clubs, club sports and ASI Student Government. UU fees support the Recreation Center, intramural sports, the Craft Center and programs that occur in the UU commercial space. Both fees support guest speakers, UU Hour concerts and other programs.

“We group them together this way really just to try to show programs that were related because we look at the program holistically,” Brummett said. “If we broke it up into smaller pieces, a lot of people would get confused … but we want people to know about it because it’s their money.”

The UU fee for the 2018-2019 school year was $231.17 and the ASI fee was $104.83 per quarter, per student, according to the ASI annual report.

About 20 percent of the money was allocated to Administration and Accounting Services and 14.27 percent went to the Cal Poly Rec Center Facility Operations. Only 2.27 percent went to ASI Student Government and less than 1 percent went to Student Community Services.

About 18 percent went to athletic scholarships.

“[The scholarship] portion of the ASI fee is what we call a ‘passthrough,’ meaning that every penny collected from the referendum, ASI doesn’t manage it. We do not manage how those scholarships are given out, but we do have ASI student government representatives that sit in on budget matters,” Brummett said.

According to the report, of all the money allocated to clubs, only about 40 percent goes directly to the clubs themselves, and “the rest goes to administration.”

The breakdown of ASI and UU student fees per quarter has remained similar to previous years and has not seen a large raise since the 2015-2016 school year. However, there is variation annually in the budget of where money is allocated to. For example, the Student Government budget varies largely from year to year.

“The way we do our budgets is a zero base budget process in which we analyze what we really need to run a program,” Brummett said. “There is volatility in cost and when there’s an opportunity to put more money in clubs, improvement projects and other things, we do.”

But how does ASI decide to divy up the money in this manner? According to UUAB Chair Elizabeth Roseman, “The ASI budget approval process is very extensive.”

“The University Union Advisory Board (UUAB) and Board of Directors, for example, are two branches of student government that help to ensure money is allocated to meet the needs of students,” Roseman said.

Student committees and branches of student government review the budget and are given detailed presentations so that student needs are met, according to Roseman.

When it comes to decision making and budgeting, students are represented throughout the whole process. Throughout the year, ASI requests feedback from students through surveys and comment cards about what they would like to see implemented on campus.

“I think this is so crucial to our college experience as students, because there is so much support for students from ASI staff that we are lucky to have,” Roseman said.

When the current Recreation Center came into conversation, the University Union Advisory Board (UUAB) worked to make sure the students’ needs were met, according to Roseman.

When asked if there was any knowledge of ASI and UU fees being raised in the near future, Brummett said, “who knows,” but mentioned that this is really up to the students.

Any time a new initiative is voted on, it goes through a referendum process and whatever is determined by it will help make the decision to raise fees or not.

“If [students are] curious, they just need to ask the questions, because like I said, it’s their money,” Brummett said. 

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