The Graduate Student Association Committee on the Graduate Student Funding Initiative has put forward a referendum to increase the GSA fee from $12.00 per quarter to $17.15 per quarter, a $5.15 per quarter increase, starting in the 2016-2017 academic year. The reasons for this fee proposal are to stabilize the Graduate Student Association budget, which has been decreasing over the years due to increased costs associated with inflation, and to re-establish funding for needed programs.
This GSA fee referendum affects all graduate and professional students in support level 1 and 2 programs. See the UC Davis Budget & Institutional Analysis website for qualifying professional degree programs here.
The GSA fee was set to $12.00 per quarter by a referendum vote in 2002 and has not been increased or adjusted since.
In accordance with Graduate Student Association By-Laws, this referendum proposal was presented in two consecutive General Assembly meetings in December and January, and the General Assembly representatives voted in the affirmative to allow the referendum to move forward. In the February General Assembly meeting, the motion to amend the motion language from a $3.86 GSA fee increase to a $5.15 increase passed with a majority.
As part of the referendum consultation process with Student Affairs, it was determined that a 25% Return to Aid (RTA) applied to any increase to the GSA fee. In order to preserve the original ask of $3.86, the Graduate Student Funding Initiative committee chair requested that the General Assembly amend their motion to allow for an increase of $5.15: $3.86 will go to the GSA and $1.29 will go to return to aid. For academic graduate students, the RTA portion of the fee will most likely be distributed to Graduate Studies to increase fellowships and aid programs. The original $12.00 GSA fee remains exempt from the 25% RTA as the fee was passed before the return to aid policy was enacted in 2006.
The fee that graduate and professional students pay to the GSA each quarter ($12.00) has remained the same since 2002. Without adjusting the fee for inflation over the last 14 years, the purchasing power of the GSA has been continually decreasing, leading to cuts in programs and reduced budgets. This referendum will adjust the fee for inflation since 2002 and a 25% return to aid portion, an increase of $5.15 to a total of $17.15 per quarter. This increase represents a 0.02% increase to graduate student tuition, and less for professional students.
If the increase is approved, the GSA will return to its 2002 funding levels in real dollars. Programs that will benefit immediately include:
- Coffee Bagel Donut Day
- Travel Awards
- Orientation Fund
- Special Projects Fund
- Sacramento Campus Expansion
- New and returning programs could include, but are not limited to, Legal Aid and GSA Pizza Night.
If the referendum is defeated, the GSA quarterly fee assessed to graduate and professional students would stay the same at $12.00 in 2015–2016, and it would continue at this level in subsequent academic years. To account for rising costs due to inflation, the 2015–2016 GSA budget would likely include financial cuts to the programs above and other programs supported by the GSA. In the longer term, annual budget allocations for GSA discretionary projects will decrease as fixed costs continue to rise due to inflation.
The core GSA mission of communicating graduate student needs with the administration may not be significantly affected by the proposed budget cuts. Many of the proposed programs to be reduced in the next GSA budget year are discretionary in that they are not mandated by either the GSA Constitution or Bylaws.
Additionally, while the GSA tries to represent all graduate and professional students, it has not always succeeded in providing services to all represented graduate and professional students. With the focus on Davis campus students, other student groups have had to lobby for access to services for their constituents.
Separately from the issues with the GSA, an increase to the GSA fee will increase the overall cost of tuition and fees at UC Davis. Specifically, for TAs, Associate Instructors, and Readers, the GSA fee is not covered by tuition and fee remission, and therefore the increased cost will be paid by those individuals. For GSRs and others, the fee would come from their funding sources, potentially decreasing money and aid available to students. While the fee in question may be a small amount, fee increases add up and should be considered carefully before approval.
Want to write a guest opinion? Email your statement to the GSA Elections Committee.
Last Update: 2/8/16 – updated for changes to the referendum per the General Assembly meeting outcome on 2/3/16.