An investigation into ASSU finances has revealed a massive reserve fund of over $500,000 in unspent student money. According to data supplied by the Capital Group at Stanford Student Enterprises, which manages the money, the fund has grown over 35% since this year’s graduating seniors entered Stanford as freshmen in 2004.
Every undergraduate is charged a “student activities fee” at the start of each academic quarter. This year the fee amounted to $96.00 per student per quarter. Most of the total is distributed through the Special Fee process, whereby groups compete on the Spring Quarter ballot for funding, but the rest is disbursed through the General Fee, which is controlled by the Undergraduate Senate.
The Senate allocates the General Fee under two categories: Programming & Community Service, intended for student groups, and Publications. This year the Senate collected $286,967.18 for Programming and $60,928.45 for Publications, for a combined total of $347,895.63—a modest increase of 18% since 2004.
The Senate allocates most of the General Fee to student groups, which must apply for funding. The portion of allocated funding that is left unspent by these groups at the end of the year is then returned to the ASSU reserve fund as a “takeback.” The portion of the General Fee not allocated to groups and left unspent is also returned to the reserve. Last year, only 62% of the Programming funding collected by the Senate was actually spent by student groups, resulting in a return to the reserve of $173,232.00. When this academic year began, the Programming reserve fund stood at $426,721.54, an increase of 23% from 2004.
Spending on student journals is no better. Last year the Senate collected $59,039.20 for Publications, of which less than half—$28,151.38—was actually spent. The remainder was returned to the Publications reserve, which has grown 86% from $83,325.60 in 2004 to $154,903.39 this year.
The combined reserve for Programming and Publications stood at $581,624.93 at the start of this academic year. Since 2004, the fund has grown 35%. The interest derived from the fund is used to cover fraud protection and provide audit oversight, according to Chris Elmore, the director of the Capital Group.
“I am comfortable with the size of the general fee reserve, and I support the political bodies in looking for ways to ensure that it is spent in accordance with the original intent of the fees and the ASSU constitution,” said Matthew McLaughlin, the ASSU’s incoming financial manager. “Thanks to the general fee reserve, important projects such as the ASSU Shuttle Bus have been funded.”
According to the Capital Group, the Shuttle Bus cost $7,690.50—less than 2% of the Programming reserve. It was the only major expenditure this year.