GAF increase aims to expand student resources

By PAT BOWDEN Reporter

Students can expect to see the general activity fee increase by $5.50 to $5.90 per credit hour for next year’s tuition.

This increase, which will be officially voted on by the Board of Regents on April 1, can be broken down into three parts: a $4.50 GAF increase for a Wellness Center expansion, a 90 cent increase for a Career Development expansion and a 10 cent increase for an increase in club sports funds.

“If you look at it, this is about a 30 percent increase in one year,” Students’ Association President Caleb Finck said. “It’s poor timing that the Board itself is looking at personal changes, so we don’t know what to expect with new board members who might be skeptical of our changes, so we want to go through it rather than waiting. We’re going to be doing about half of the entire GAF plan at the same time, rather than spreading it out.”

The Wellness Center expansion, which will take up a large portion of $4.50 of the GAF increase and was also approved anonymously by Students’ Association, is planned to double the square footage of the facility by adding on to the north side of the building that was originally built with future expansion in mind.

The expansion will consist of four new basketball courts, double the weight lifting area, a track expansion, two more studios, two new racquetball courts, an expansion for the internal health clinic and possibly an outdoor center that would allow students to rent outdoor activities gear.

“The facility was too small the day it opened and we have continued to grow – especially with the opening of the new residential halls, so the proximity increased and there are students right outside our door now,” Wellness Center Director Jeffrey Huskey said. “Our community memberships have plateaued simply because we’re out of space, so there’s no space for more people.”

In total, the Wellness Center expansion will cost around $16 million to $17 million, according to Finck, with the GAF increase taking care of the majority of the funds. The Wellness Center plans on fundraising for any remaining amount of money.

“The one [fee increase] that appeals to me is the Wellness Center because more things [intramural sports] can go on at the same time,” senior agronomy major Taylor Jensen said. “I think it would benefit the whole student body … there’s always the thought that ‘I don’t use this,’ but in my mind it’s overall evened out in the end.”

Others who are a part of the 75 percent of students who use the gym look forward to the expansion, which has a rough timetable to hire an architect by summer 2015, begin construction by fall 2015 and be open by January 2018 after 18-24 months of construction, according to Finck.

“I think the gym is too small, hands down. … Sometimes I go there and it’s too packed, and sometimes I’ll leave early because it’s too busy and I can’t use the equipment,” freshman architecture major Keaton Hoff said. “I think they should do the court expansion, because I’ve had friends who have had their intramural sports filled up before they can sign up.”

The expansion in career development will take up 90 cents of the increase, which will go toward a new model of career development called a Liaison model. This new system aims toward having a career development officer for every college academic unit, whose position is half paid for by the students via the GAF and the other half is paid for by the college itself, if they choose to participate in the new model.

“We think it’s a great expense for the GAF because it’s open to all students to use, and 99.9 percent of students are here because they want a great job when they graduate, and that helps us fulfill that mission in a better way,” Director of Student Engagement Nick Wendell said. “The Liaison model lets us hire an expert in that field and narrow their focus on and train to a specific college, building relationships with faculty and students in that college. Rather than hiring generalists, we’re using this as an opportunity to hire with a strategic focus. … I think our ability to serve students and their particular needs will be enhanced through the Liaison model.”

Currently, Career Development houses just four employees in Student Engagement, and according to Wendell, these four employees are constantly overwhelmed with all of the needs of a campus the size of South Dakota State. This 90-cent increase was chosen so that, potentially, this GAF increase could support exactly half of the salary of one employee per college, given that all colleges theoretically agreed to pay the other half of the salary, with some wiggle room for different splits for individual cases.

“[The career development increase is] absolutely critical. Having the career development crew helps everyone and having that ability makes it have more worth,” Finck said. “It’s investing in what we’re here for.” 

Some students echo Finck’s beliefs on the career development focus, and they also think that something of this much impact on students is worth the 90 cents that it raises the GAF.

“I like the idea to have one [career development] person per college, I’ve used them to help me build a resume,” Jensen said. “If they have a good idea of what the people in the industry are looking for it could do more good for the students.”

The last 10 cents of the GAF increase is going toward club sports.

Half of club sports, which are under The Union, will be moved to under the Wellness Center so all club sports are under the same department.

This increase will “simplify” funding for club sports by not needing them to compete with other student organizations to get funds through University Activity Fee Budgeting Committee according to Huskey.

“The way The Union gets their funding is they request money, so this move will take all of the other clubs under The Union umbrella to our umbrella,” Huskey said. “All of these clubs will see an increase because they’ll have more space to compete.”

The increase in club sports will tally up to $20,000, which can be justified by the number of participants in club sports in recent semesters.

“The Wellness Center initially had enough funding for those club sports, which was originally set up as a separate pot of money in the Wellness Center,” Finck said. “Since then we’ve had an explosion of club sports and since then we’ve been paying for them.”

Some fees that were in the original talk for the GAF increase but were eventually dismissed by the BOR were a controversial $1 increase for a stadium reserve fund and an increase in food services.

“Every cent of that $5.90,” Finck said, “is going toward providing opportunity for every student’s experience at SDSU.”