SG has no plans to refund Activity & Service fees; funding to go toward fall semester events instead

The money collected from A&S fees that was not spent during the spring semester will roll over to the following fiscal year to fund events in the fall. ORACLE PHOTO

About $17 million in Activity and Service (A&S) fees from students’ tuition was collected this year, and despite event cancellations and shifts to online during the spring semester, the remainder of those funds will not be refunded or prorated to students. 

Instead, the A&S fees — consisting of $7 per semester and $12 per credit hour  — will go toward funding on-campus resources and events in the fall semester. 

Of the $17 million, about $10 million of the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget goes to departments, including the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE), Center for Student Involvement (CSI), New Student Connections (NSC), USF Recreation and Wellness, and the Marshall Student Center. 

Some of those departments hold popular events around campus such as the University Lecture Series (ULS), USF Week, the Week of Welcome and Bulls Night Out. 

About $1.5 million of the A&S fees are distributed by Student Government (SG) to over 200 student organizations so they can carry out events throughout the year. 

After the university shifted to remote instruction, many of the on-campus organizations, resources and events had to either transition to online platforms or be postponed — and in some cases, canceled. 

SG allocated departments their annual funding for programming and salaries at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2019. Student organizations also had been funded for the year.

SG had to make a decision about what it was going to do with the fees that were supposed to be used for the remainder of the spring semester. 

Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) Chair Travis McCloskey said funding for the canceled events and closures will end up leaving a large sum, which will roll over into next year’s budget.

But for student organizations, McCloskey said it is still too early to determine.    

“The number being thrown around for departments is around $400,000 that will roll over, but for student [organizations] we have virtually no way to predict those rollover numbers right now.”

Currently, the projected A&S budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year is around $17.9 million, according to McCloskey. 

As part of the near $17 million that is allocated every year, McCloskey said it is used to pay student employees and staff.  

“Those fees have already been allocated for people’s salaries,” McCloskey said. “Directors that work in the CLCE and staff that are still making things run, even from a distance, are relying on those fees we allocated in order to work.”

Departments and organizations that do not use their funds by the end of the fiscal year return the remaining funds to the budget for next year.

“Student organizations get those funds through an annual process and, if student organizations don’t spend that money, it gets ‘swept back’ into the following year,“ McCloskey said.

However, CSI requested a “sweep-back exemption” considering the high expenses that go toward its events. 

The exemption requests means that instead of giving back unused funds at the end of the semester, the department keeps it for use in the summer and fall semesters. 

CSI typically carries out well-known events in the spring semester such as USF Week, which includes a ULS lecture and the alternative/pop concert Bullstock. 

Although CSI has opted to hold a virtual USF Week, the in-person events were projected to cost around $177,000 this year, according to CSI Associate Director Josh Wilson. 

Last year, Bullstock alone cost about $170,000, with an additional $50,000 allocated to the existing Bullstock budget.

“There will be a lot of money that rolls over [this year] due to events like Bullstock being canceled,” McCloskey said. “You can anticipate events … during Week of Welcome and early fall to make up for the missed events.”

Some of the biggest expenses for these events were contracted talents. These contracts include talents for events throughout USF Week, including Bullstock musicians and the ULS speaker.

While some of them were able to be canceled, others are still up in the air.

“We had some contracts for USF Week that will still need to be paid,” Dean of Students Danielle McDonald said. “We’re going to have to rebook them or move them to fall [semester].”

For comparison, last year’s Bullstock headliner AJR was contracted for $50,000 before being replaced by Timeflies, who was contracted for $45,000. Also, Nickelodeon actor Josh Peck, the USF Week ULS speaker last year, was paid $30,000 to speak at the Tampa campus.

As contracts are being moved and budgets are finalized, McCloskey said ASRC’s immediate goal is to make sure students whose A&S jobs could be at risk are getting paid.

“Whether that’s provided through various online opportunities, we ask that A&S student employees get their payroll somehow, someway,” McCloskey said. 

“We’re waiting on a response from university financial entities, but we’re still advocating on everyone’s behalf the best we can.”