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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Every semester students at UF pay $13.94 per credit hour in “activity and service fees.”

That’s about $200 for the average 14-credit hour student at UF.

But where does it go?

It’s used for things like making repairs in the Reitz Union, financing student groups and paying student employees at Southwest Recreation Center. 

The fees comprise the roughly $16 million Student Government budget. 

It’s a budget larger than some small towns in Florida, such as Williston, which has a budget of $5.9 million. It is only slightly smaller than the $17 million SG budget at the University of Central Florida, which has the largest student population in the state.

UF’s SG budget is split three ways between RecSports, which uses $ 5.6 million; the Reitz Union, which uses $ 5.7 million; and SG, which  uses $ 4.8 million to fund student organizations and pay for SG officials’ salaries.

According to the SG Officers Salary report for the 2010-2011 school year, Student Body President Ashton Charles will have been paid $8,995.62 by June 30, and Student Body Vice President Marcus Dixon will have made $6,746.82. Virlany Taboada, the Student Body treasurer, will have made $7,478.36.

The Senate president, who is elected by other members of the Student Senate, will have made $2,675.49. The Senate pro-tempore will have made $1,877.94.

Accent Chairman Zachary Goldstein and Student Government Productions Chairman Kyle Calhoun will have made $1,877.94.

Executive officers also receive a total of $7,700 to pay for phone bills, but they are required to show proof that they use the phone for work purposes.

Accent, a group that brings speakers and performers to UF, has a smaller budget for the 2011-2012 school year than  in previous years. This year, the group is budgeted for $407,100 compared to the $472,947 of two years prior. Still, the group still has the money to bring in large acts with even bigger price tags. Alan Dershowitz,  who spoke in March, was paid $30,000. Magicians Penn and Teller, who performed in February, were paid $55,000 and Daniel Tosh, who performed this month, was paid $66,000.

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Accent also co-sponsors cultural events such as  Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

UF has more than 900 student groups on campus, about 10 percent of which are funded by SG.

Two of the highest-financed groups are Speech and debate, which receives $47,162, and the University Gospel Choir, which receives $43,902. The choir’s budget is used almost entirely for programs while Speech and Debate uses its funds entirely for traveling.

The largest organization funded by SG is Volunteers for International Students Affairs with $85,853, a $14,680 increase from last year. VISA is a volunteering program that has almost 30 subgroups dedicated to a range of programs and cultures.

The top-funded cultural groups are the Hispanic Student Association, with $47,577, and the Jewish Student Union with $47,246 Asian American Student Union, with $43,772, and the Black Student Union, with $34,675.

Each of those groups have subgroups, cover a large portion of the student population and host months of events dedicated to each of their causes.

The Pride Student Union, an LGBT group on campus, has a budget of $10,613 down about $400 from last year.

T.J. Villamil, Student Body treasurer-elect, said the reason behind that is the group did not have high attendance at its events, which is one of a few factors the budget committee looks into when assessing the budget each year.

He said funding for each group is based on factors such as the number of active members,  university outreach, how the groups spent their money the year before and how much money they received the year before.

While those figures seem large, Villamil said that the groups that have budgets less than $800 actually cost the students more.

He explained that it costs more to process their budgets because of man hours spent on each budget and all the different hands and time it has to go through.

“A better way to think of it, for every budget on the cycle, around 80, it costs students less than $800 to produce and process. So it is not feasible to have budgets less than that amount or even near it,” he wrote in an email.

Student Body Treasurer Taboada said this happens because no matter the size of the budget, the labor costs for each of the different departments that the budget goes through.

She said the roughest estimate for that cost would be $1,000. 

She also said that historically, groups that have $1,000 in budget or less don’t spend all of their money.

Taboada said when any group does not use all of its budget money, the rest is put into reserves that cannot be touched or given to other groups that need it.

The reserve is similar to a rainy day fund for the university. She explained if a hurricane was to hit UF or if something happened to the Reitz, the estimated $1.4 million in the reserve fund could be used to repair any damage or other special projects.

Taboada said many students don’t know what they pay for and that they should.

As a graduating senior, she said she has received her money’s worth through her four years at UF.

“That’s what you pay for,” she said. “It’s hard to believe students don’t take advantage of all the things.”

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