Student Activity Fees: Who Gets What and Who Decides?

Only a small percentage of student activity fees at University of North Carolina campuses are distributed by students to campus organizations, says a new study. The majority of student activity fees are allocated by university administrators for purposes ranging from repairs to a student center to an undergraduate teaching award.

At N.C. State, only $8.85 out of the $363.50 collected per student for activities is distributed by students. At UNC-Chapel Hill, $39 of the $291.30 students must pay each year is given to student government to disburse to student organizations. “Contrary to the general impression, students are almost entirely excluded from the process of disbursing the student activity fee,” says Jenna Ashley Robinson, author of the study, “Student Activity Fees: Who Gets What and Who Decides?”

The study originated in an effort to find out whether student fees are fairly distributed among conservative and liberal campus organizations. Such fees have been a contentious issue ever since two University of Wisconsin students sued their university for requiring them to pay fees for student groups with which they disagreed. In 2000, the Supreme Court approved fees if they are “viewpoint neutral.”

In the UNC system, the study found, the student allocations seem fair. “Where fees are used for political groups, the distribution seems to reflect the preferences of the student body,” said Robinson. But very little is allocated by students.

For a pdf of the report, click here.

For a pdf of the report’s appendix, click here.