GAF: General Activity Fee

General information

The General Activity Fee, or GAF, is a per credit hour fee each student pays to support student activities and programs. 

Students at South Dakota State University pay a GAF of $33.90 per credit. A student enrolled in a 15-credit-hour schedule would pay $508.50 per semester. The GAF amount fluctuates depending on the number of credits a student is enrolled.

“The GAF is in place to enrich the student experience, and unfortunately, that enrichment does cost money, but it also goes to support students so they have a really positive experience,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Michaela Willis. 

The dollars gained through the GAF are then allocated by the Students’ Association to various areas across campus. Areas funded by the GAF include athletics, Title IX, the Wellness Center, The Union, University Activity Fee Budgeting Committee, career development, intramurals and debt service for the Wellness Center and Union.

These experiences take up $24.28 of the GAF. The remainder is used for student organizations and updating commonly used facilities.

Doug Wermedal, associate vice president of Student Affairs, often calls it the “quality of life” fee.

“It’s something we add to campus to make it better,” Wermedal said.

Role of the GAF in the SDSU experience

The role of the General Activity Fee is to “enhance student life,” but some students don’t know about the GAF.

Kalena Brunsch, freshman civil engineering major, said she only remembers seeing the total amount she owed for tuition.

“I didn’t really look into it (the GAF) that much,” Brunsch said. “I just looked at the total.”

She doesn’t like that the GAF is a large sum of money, but she enjoys the activities funded by it.

All of the activities students attend for “free” are paid for by the GAF they pay each semester.

But Nick Lorang, SA Finance Chair sees the GAF as a fee students pay for experiences. 

“Overall, the goal of all of those categories of the General Activity Fee is to enhance student life or maybe to provide funding for things that are open, available, accessible, utilized because all students are paying for it,” Lorang said.

Michaela Willis, Vice President of Student Affairs acknowledged that college is expensive but so is having high quality amenities at SDSU.

“As students’ expectations of the amenities increase, unfortunately, so do the costs,” Willis said, “and so I think we do a really good job at balancing those amenities with that cost, so we can maintain an an affordable education.”

Students’ Association allocations 

The Students’ Association, SDSU’s student governing body, allocates the General Activity Fee (GAF).

“In a big picture sense, the Students’ Association, as the voice of the students, our role is to provide student output in the overall … ongoing structure of the General Activity Fee,” said Nick Lorang, SA finance chair. “So, when increases are proposed, student input is always solicited, and we’re always pretty vocal about our support or lack thereof of a general activity fee increase.”

Administrators help to guide the allocation process of the GAF, but students ultimately tell administration where the money needs to go, said Doug Wermedal, associate vice president of Student Affairs.

SA receives $9.62 of of the $33.90 each student pays per credit in GAF, Michaela Willis, Vice President of Student Affairs said. This portion of money goes to an oversight committee called University Activity Fee and Budgeting Committee. The money is then split into two categories: tier one and tier two.

Tier one funds support the operations of The Union, Wellness Center and the Student Clinic, Lorang said. Tier two funds are allocated to student groups on SA’s yearly budget and special allocations for events and new organizations.

“We’re paying more to our tier ones, which leaves less for tier two,” said Ally Helms, SA president. Tier one takes precedence over tier two by using more of the GAF fund.

The two tiers together add up to about $2.7 million dollars.

“Student opportunity and experiences I think are more important to me than the price tag on those experiences,” Lorang said.

GAF funds for student organizations fluctuate based on the number of credit hours taken throughout the university. If students take less credit hours or less students attend SDSU, then less money goes toward student groups.

In the past, SA has cut between $50,000 to $80,000 from SA’s yearly operating budget to manage the raising cost for items in the tier one category, Lorang said. Last year, SA cut $63,000 from the student organization budget. 

SA manages this budget by hosting meetings with student groups and organizations in late February and March. Groups then make requests for the amount of money they think they will need for the upcoming year. Following the first meetings, the SA finance committee decides how much needs to be cut from student organization budgets.

“Typically across the board we have to comb through the budgets to make small cuts. We have to trim the fat,” Lorang said. “(We) make logical, appropriate responsible cuts based on the information that we have.”

This year the student senate decided to sweep the accounts of all student organizations funded by SA. The amount swept from organizations was more than $125,000. 

“The General Activity Fee allocated to those groups is meant to be spent in that year. It’s paid for by students that are attending SDSU that year and so we want it to be returned to student opportunities for that year,” Helms said. “The individuals that are paying for it are going to benefit from it.”

Helms said she understands the importance of keeping tuition low.

“We don’t want to out price ourselves in the market and we want to make sure SDSU continues to be one of the most affordable universities across the region,” Helms said. “I think by educating students so that they understand what their funds are going to and what they’re receiving in benefits in return.”