Voters Guide for the 2017 GSA Fee Referendum

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General Information

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 $17.40 per quarter, a $5.40 per quarter increase, starting in the 2017-2018 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, as well as partially fund the impending Walker Hall maintenance.

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.

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 $4.05, a total increase of $5.40 is necessary. $4.05 will go to the GSA and $1.35 will go to return to aid. For academic graduate students, the RTA portion of the fee will 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.

Pros

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 15 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 $5.40 to a total of $17.40 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 could benefit immediately include:

  • Travel Awards
  • Orientation Fund
  • Special Projects Fund
  • Sacramento Campus Expansion
  • Increased State and Federal advocacy
  • Coffee Bagel Donut Day
  • New and returning programs such as Legal Aid and GSA Pizza Night.

If the referendum is defeated, the GSA quarterly fee assessed to graduate and professional students would stay at $12.00 and it would continue at this level in subsequent academic years. To account for rising costs due to inflation, the 2017–2018 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. With the building of Walker Hall and the moving of the GSA office there, and the agreement to share space-maintenance costs (signed by 2015-2016 GSA Chair) the fixed costs of the GSA are expected to increase substantially when Walker Hal is completed. This will lead to massive cuts to the programs and services GSA offers if the fee referendum is not approved.

Cons

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.
 

Definitions

Outline of fee increase
Current fee (effective fall 2003) = $12.00 per quarter ($6 per summer session) Fee adjusted for inflation to same value in 2016= $16.05
Subtotal increase = $4.05
Subtotal increase (75% of total increase) = $4.05 Return-to-Aid (25% of total increase) = $1.35

TOTAL INCREASE = $5.40 per quarter ($2.70 per summer session) Total quarterly fee= $17.40 ($8.70 per summer session)

Initiative Provisions
Voting will follow the guidelines presented by the Graduate Student Association’s Elections Committee. If voting does not comply with these rules the referendum will not pass.

Oversight of the fee adjustment will be led by the appropriate oversight body of graduate students, currently The Council on Student Affairs and Fees (COSAF). Undergraduates on this board will not have oversight of the GSA Fee.

Future adjustments to the total fee amount will be tied to an appropriate consumer price index, in accordance with UC standards (currently CPI). Adjustments will be determined by an appropriate oversight body (currently COSAF) and can be adjusted (up or down) annually by the oversight body. Undergraduates will not vote on fee adjustments. No adjustments shall be made prior to the 2018-2019 academic year.

Return-to-Aid (RTA) will only be applied to GSA fee increases over the baseline fee of $12.00 per quarter ($6 per summer session).

Description of terms
CPI, Consumer Price Index, is an estimate for inflation and is among the standards used by the University of California. Information on the Consumer Price Index data can be found here: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/

Return-to-Aid is a percentage of each new fee (or fee increase) that funds need-based student financial support, in accordance with University of California policy. RTA from the GSA fee increase will specifically fund need-based graduate student financial support.

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Want to write a guest opinion? Email your statement to the GSA Elections Committee.