Free is not really free: Fees pay for many events

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Cami Bauer, president of the Rodeo Club, is already preparing for the 57th annual Jackrabbit Stampede Rodeo, an event in April she is helping to organize and will compete in this spring.

“We dedicate so much of our time and budget to it because it’s been such a successful event in the past,” she said. “To put on a rodeo is a big responsibility.”

Despite all the fundraising and local support the Rodeo Club receives, Bauer said her organization likely could not put on the annual event without the money they receive from the Students’ Association.

“We appreciate all the support we get,” she said. “Rodeo is not as popular as many other sports, but we feel appreciative that we get help from the school.”

Each fall, the Students’ Association allocates money to clubs and organizations that sponsor events or services for the student body. The student senate recently finished club budgets for the 2010-2011 school year, allocating more than $2.2 million among 25 organizations.

“Ultimately, students are paying for everything, and so allocating student fee money is very important,” said SA Finance Chair Ashley Dumke. “Clubs need to come request fees to get their voice heard on how fees are being used. We want to use the fees in the most efficient and best ways and so students get what they want.”

SA receives the money it budgets through the general activity fee. The University Activity Fee Budget Committee is receiving $9.10 per credit this year, and the student senate recommends this money’s use. The other $15.25 per credit of the activity fee is used for athletics, intramurals and paying down debt on The Union and Wellness Center, said Wes Tschetter, associate vice president for finance and business at SDSU.

Any recognized student organization may request a share of UAFBC’s student fee dollars. Organizations are eligible to receive money if they enhance students’ knowledge, represent SDSU in competition, operate a campus building for students or provide students with a service, a broader knowledge of art or culture or free or reduced admission to an event.

Several well-known events, such as theater productions and University Program Council events, are free or have reduced admissions because students have already paid money through their student fees.

“A lot of the events have an entertainment factor, but with the international nights and some speaker series, they have a whole different sense of diversity that some rural South Dakota and Minnesota kids have never seen,” said Matt Tollefson, SA president. “It gives them a chance to get the whole college experience.”

For senior Evan Jones, an important part of his college experience has been the Wild Hare Racing team, which designs and builds a formula-style racecar for intercollegiate competition. After months of preparation, members of the team will travel to California in June to put their single-seat race vehicle, which is powered by a 600cc motorcycle engine, to the test. In June 2009, the team placed 35 out of 80 registered teams at the Formula SAE competition, Jones said.

“The Formula SAE car is important because it provides students with a real-world engineering and business environment,” said Jones, president of the Society of Automotive Engineers. “One of the goals of SDSU is to minimize the gap between students and professionals, and this project is designed to do just that.”

Due to the large costs associated with building a racecar and also traveling to California, Jones said the Formula SAE car would not be possible without its local sponsors and student fee money.

“Without the funding from the SA, we would be incapable of building a competitive racecar to represent South Dakota State University at a worldwide level,” he said.

To receive student fee dollars, groups must fill out a budget packet, go through a hearing with SA’s Finance Committee and present the budget before the entire student senate in the fall. Tollefson said deadlines are important in that process, and if clubs that do not currently receive money want to get student fee dollars, they should visit with the finance chair at the beginning of the fall semester.

After clubs meet with the full student senate, they meet in the spring with the UAFBC – a group of administrators, faculty and student senators – which makes sure the SA has wisely allocated student fee dollars. UAFBC rarely goes against SA’s recommendations, but members do have a lot of their own questions and suggestions, Tollefson said.

According to current budgeting philosophy, history plays a large role in determining funding for organizations, but Tollefson said SA also looks at the success of programs when allocating funds. If a club asks for an increase, it should prove a need.

“We look at if they have taken a chance on something, provided something new for students or had past success,” Tollefson said. “An additional number of past participants is pretty important.”

Overall, Tollefson said SA tries to allocate money so the student body as a whole, not just a select group, benefits. Jones said his group does this by providing a great recruiting tool for the university and by encouraging all majors to get involved with its project. Bauer said her club is also open to all students, and the Jackrabbit Stampede Rodeo – held April 8 to 11, 2010 – is a fun event for both college students and community members.

“A rodeo is something that doesn’t happen all the time in our city,” she said. “It’s a fun event for everyone to watch.”