Lorenzo Morotti / The Advocate
The Associated Student Union’s Grant for Support program at Contra Costa College faltered this semester before it could process a single application due to a lack of commitment by members of the ASU, Student Life Coordinator Joel Nicholson-Shanks said.
Nearly every student in the Contra Costa Community College District — CCC, Diablo Valley College and Los Medanos College — pays a $5 Student Activity Fee when they register for classes each term to fund the districtwide Grant for Support program.
Funded through this student enrollment fee, the Grant for Support program gives the CCC ASU Board the authority to allocate up to $2,500 per applicant through a $25,000 budget per semester.
In the past, the ASU has provided funding for departments on campus to host events like the Jump for Jamaica event, or help in other ways like pay the contract of the live online streaming of Comet sporting events through Bay Area Sports TV.
But, according to ASU officials, it has been unable to facilitate disbursement of funds this semester because there is only one member on the ASU Finance Committee, the internal group that screens new and old applications to provide recommendations of approval or denial of grants to the ASU Board.
Students at CCC will not see their money put to use this semester despite paying the fee.
If our money is being wasted, we need to eliminate the fee or create a disbursement process that is reliable and effectively improves the lives of students.
ASU Finance Committee Chairperson Arius Robinson said some students have shown interest in joining the committee, but for most of the semester he has been “a one-man army.”
Robinson said the Grant for Support will be a big topic of discussion at the ASU meeting today in SA-107.
But we need more than discussion. We need action.
Not having the Grant for Support active at this point in the semester means that departments and clubs that lack institutional funding or fundraising are unable to ask the board for financial support to host events, create programs or supplement other worthy causes.
How is paying the $5 Student Activity Fee any better than wadding up $5 and throwing them into Rheem Creek?
Over the last two years, since the ASU revived the program (yes, it was on hiatus previously as well), the application and disbursement process usually spans a three-month period. But fewer than two months remain in the 2016 fall semester.
And since 2014, the ASU has not spent all the money in its Grant for Support budget despite knowing the funding is replenished every semester.
The Grant for Support was created so student fees would be used instead of neglected at the district level, CCC Business Office Supervisor Nick Dimitri said.
Dimitri said the revenue from the Student Activity Fee is placed in a district account, and funding is dispersed from this district account to colleges a few times a year.
According to the ASU Profit and Loss Report for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the net income for the $5 fee alone at CCC was about $27,000.
So we either need to have another governance group take the responsibility of managing this large pool of student money or get rid of the fees.
If our money is not dispersed properly by the ASU, then we must demand a refund. We cannot pay it forward just because the ASU committee given the responsibility to disburse the money can’t find enough participants.