SA endorses student fee increase for grants

By Matt Gilbert

A heated debate and vote lead to a Student Association endorsement for an increase in the student-to-student grant program fee at the SA Senate meeting Sunday night. The fee is fully refundable.

The vote came after a debate focused more on the fact that refundable student fees are not widely or prominently published in campus literature than concentrating on the merits on the grant program itself.

One senator, Bob Sklodowski, proposed amendments that would list refundable student fees on student bills and a letter explaining the fee increase attached to the bills.

SA President Abe Andrzejewski said perhaps Sklodowski’s amendment should be passed, but not as a part of the grant resolution. “I’m afraid we’re confusing two different issues here.” he said. The amendment was defeated.

The program is favored by the SA’s Student Committee on Financial Aid (SCOFA) Adviser Miguel Guevara. Guevara’s committee is in charge of improving the quality and services of the financial aid program at NIU.

The grant program has been in existence since 1986. It requires students to pay a refundable $3 per semester fee to help students attend NIU who might not afford it otherwise.

If the increase is approved, the fee would go up to $4.50. The state of Illinois promises to match the funds generated by the fee when funding is available.

According to Guevara, since the program began, underprivileged students have collected $1,036,342 in assistance, with $551,331 coming from student fees. The state of Illinois has provided $485,011. It appears on students’ award letters as an “NIU grant.”

Jerry Augsburger, director of NIU’s Student Financial Aid Office, came to speak in favor of the increase. Augsburger projected the increase would aid 100 to 110 economically disadvantaged new students per year.

Some senators, like Richard Baker, questioned the increase as hurting some students who have already found trouble paying tuition and fees. “We really need to re-evaluate how we vote on student fees. Even though we see $1.50 as being small, to some students it’s very large.”

Others, like SA Senator Harry Kontos, supported the plan. “By voting no on this you will be stopping people from attending college. If you feel so strongly (opposed to the program) you can always go (to the Bursar’s Office) and get a refund. Nobody is forced to pay this fee.”

The next SA Senate meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, in the Clara Sperling Skyroom of the Holmes Student Center. All students are invited to attend.