SA treasurer says she’s pursuing student activity fees refunds

Student Association has $900,000 leftover after events, activities and meetings were cancelled due to COVID-19

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The Student Association has “approximately” $900,000 of student fees left from this semester after SA cancelled all events, activities and meetings until May 16, according to SA Treasurer Kendra Harris. 

Harris said she’s pursuing prorated refunds for students’ activity fees, which cost each student $109 every semester, after UB's move to "distance learning" amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Harris says she needs approval from UB administrators, SA professional staff and the SA board of directors before any decision can be finalized. Harris’ proposal follows Student Life’s decision to refund students for unused housing and meal contracts. 

Harris will seek guidance from Student Life in order to determine “the rate” for students’ potential refunds and that the entirety of the $900,000 will not be refunded to students because SA still has “essential costs,” including insurance and stipends. 

UB did not respond to questions about the student activity fee decision process in time for publication.

Some students want their student activity fees refunded, but others think the money should be used to improve SA.  

Devonte Tolliver, a sophomore public health major, thinks SA should not refund students their student activity fees. Instead, he said he thinks SA should use the money to “invest” in SA and meet the student body’s “wants.”

“The money should be kept for the next academic year to invest into the current annual events and to create additional ideas based on the wants of the student body,” Tolliver said. 

Student governments at some schools already committed to refunding students their student activity fees. Students at SUNY Stony Brook will receive prorated refunds or credits for their student activity fees, according to The Statesman, Stony Brook’s student newspaper.

Julia Whipple, a junior psychology major, said she thinks SA “should refund each student their $100, given the circumstances.”

“College isn’t cheap and if students cannot attend any of the extra events that their fees pay for, at least they should be refunded those smaller transactions,” Whipple said. “SA will continue to have a flow of funds each semester, so it seems fair for it to be returned this semester.”

Mike Powers, a senior communication major, said that student activity fees are like a contract and that if SA does not use the money to meet its “contractual obligations,” it should provide refunds. 

“If funds from our tuition were not allocated for their intended purpose, then by all means those funds should be disseminated back to the students,” Powers said.

Ryan Coppola, a sophomore business administration major and a general body member of the undergraduate consulting club and financial management association, said he hopes SA will refund students because other UB organizations — like Student Life — are providing prorated credit and “every dollar makes a difference in these tough times.”

“I think the SA should calculate the best way to return the money to the students. Campus Living and Campus Dining are already looking to give partial refunds for the year, so it makes sense for SA to give a partial refund as well.”

Adam James contributed reporting to this story. 

Julian Roberts-Grmela is a senior news editor and can be reached at julian.grmela@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @GrmelaJulian. 

JULIAN ROBERTS-GRMELA


Julian Roberts-Grmela is a senior news editor for The Spectrum and an English and philosophy major. His favorite book is “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith and he hopes that one day his writing will be as good as hers.