How students can improve the funding for CSU programs without paying more
From Nov. 27 to 29, Concordia undergraduate students will vote in their union’s by-election.
On the ballot, there will be a referendum question to reallocate Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) fees. Students will be asked if they agree to reduce the amount of fees they pay for a renovation fund and increase fees for student clubs, advocacy services and general operations by the same amount. As the CSU finance coordinator, I believe students should vote yes, because it will protect valuable student services without raising fees.
The CSU offers a wide range of services, campaigns for student rights and hosts fun events. It creates jobs for students and provides support for student-led projects and clubs. All of this is funded by six per-credit fees from students. Currently, for each credit, students pay $2.11 for general CSU operations, $0.24 for the advocacy services, $0.24 for the Off-Campus Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO), $0.17 for the Legal Information Clinic, $0.20 for clubs and $0.74 for the “Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency (SSAELC) Fund.”
All of this money is given to the CSU, however, it can only be used for its designated purpose. Money collected for HOJO, for example, can’t be used for orientation week events. This means that when the CSU council approves the budget, it’s actually approving five separate budgets.
In previous years, the CSU ran surpluses in a few departments, specifically for clubs and the advocacy services. As a non-profit organization, we’re not supposed to do that, so the executives ran referendums to reduce the fees. The advocacy services fee was reduced in 2015, and the fee for clubs was reduced in 2017. However, almost immediately after these referendums passed, demand for the services increased. More students were going to the Advocacy Centre, forming clubs and increasing club activity, but the CSU now had less money for those resources than before.
This has placed these departments in a structural deficit. Advocacy services are projected to run a deficit of roughly $30,000 this year, and clubs is $70,000 in the red. These deficits have been absorbed by CSU cash reserves from previous surpluses, but that can’t go on forever. This year, we have to choose between raising revenue or reducing student services.
Don’t panic. Despite these challenges, the CSU is in a good financial position overall. Its net value increased this year to over $13 million. However, much of that money is in the SSAELC Fund and, because fees have restricted use, the money has to stay there.
What is the SSAELC Fund? It’s a large reserve of funds that can be used to build or renovate student spaces, support student associations that vote to go on strike, and pay legal settlements if the union gets sued. The fund has roughly $10 million in it, and is invested in stock portfolios that help it grow from year to year. It was recently used to fund projects like the Woodnote Housing Cooperative and the CSU daycare—and even after those big projects, the fund is still growing strong.
The CSU has plenty of resources, but they’re not being allocated in the best way possible. To fix that, we’re proposing to reduce the fee levy for the SSAELC Fund by $0.36, while also implementing a fee increase of $0.06 for advocacy services, $0.10 for clubs and $0.20 for general operations. All the budgets will balance out, and students won’t have to pay anything more.
The SSAELC Fund will still grow by approximately $250,000 per year after this reform. By collecting a bit less for the renovations fund, which already has $10 million in it, we can increase funding for the many clubs that enrich student life and give us extracurricular experience. We will be able to maintain the advocacy services that protect student rights, and invest more in services, bursaries, programming and campaigns. All of this will be possible without students having to pay even one extra cent.
On the other hand, if this referendum fails to pass, we’ll be required to reduce funding for clubs and advocacy services. No student will benefit from that. The proposed new fee structure is a simple, responsible and effective way to manage our union’s finances. To support student clubs and the important services students depend on, without having to pay more, please vote “yes” on Nov. 27, 28 or 29.
Archive graphic by Ana Bilokin