UNC board votes to increase student group’s budget by 6,600 percent

The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina this week approved a systemwide, $1 increase in student fees to fund the UNC Association of Student Governments. The increase will raise the UNCASG’s budget from $2,500 to $165,000 — an increase of 6,600 percent.

The increase also marked the first time the UNC board has ever approved a systemwide student fee increase.

The president of the UNCASG, Andrew Payne, said the increase would empower “the student voice” and keep student leaders from having “to spend their own money like I have.”

A budget proposal provided by the UNCASG for the expected $165,000 includes the following expenditures:
• $95,000 for professional (nonstudent) staff salaries
• $22,500 for student officer and intern stipends
• $12,000 for student publications
• $10,000 for travel expenses
• $10,000 for student leader training, development and orientation
• $9,600 for office operations
• $9,000 for committee programming and operating
• $5,000 for organization memberships and seed money
• $5,000 for computers and software
• $3,000 for youth voter education and outreach

The proposal notes that the UNCASG patterned its systemwide fee proposal after that of the United Council of University of Wisconsin Students. The Wisconsin system allows a student in the system to obtain a fee refund, however, but the UNCASG proposal does not. “After conversations with UNC Vice President Jeff Davies,” the UNCASG states in its budget proposal, “it was concluded that the mandatory refundable system would not be efficient and would be burdensome to the campuses.”

This budget was approved by the UNC board despite the fact that board members have reservations about it, especially the money set aside for professional staff. “(The proposal) came to us so fast, and we have not had time to study it,” chairman of the budget and finance committee Addison Bell told The Daily Tar Heel. “We are going to be sure the structure of the budget is satisfactory.” Since the UNCASG budget was approved without an official request to revise it, the organization is not compelled to do so.

Payne was already practicing speaking for the students in the UNC system while lobbying for the fee increase. “It’s very simple,” he told the DTH on Tuesday. “The students want it. It’s a dollar and will put us on par with student organizations across the country.”

After the increase passed, Payne told the DTH, “Words can’t describe what I feel like. The 170,000 students in this state have reached a new level of empowerment.”

The increase comes with the UNCASG facing criticism for raising costs on UNC students while purporting to work to reduce student costs. “The general feeling from NCSU and UNC campuses as a whole is that ASG is ineffective and that $1 is not going to change that,” editorialized Technician, N.C. State’s student newspaper, on Tuesday.

“Creating a fee to fund the ASG has been considered many times before, but never put forth as a viable solution,” wrote T. Greg Doucette, former president pro tem of the North Carolina State University Student Senate, in a letter in The News & Observer Friday, “because the organization’s past leaders recognized the inherent hypocrisy of adding yet another financial burden to overcharged students and their families.”