ASSU: Winter refund rate highest in three years

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More undergraduates requested money in special fees refunds this winter than in any of the past seven quarters, according to numbers released by the ASSU Tuesday night — and now, student groups are feeling the pinch.

A total of 1,132 students requested refunds from some or all of the 50 student groups who received special fees this year, said Matt McLaughlin, the ASSU financial manager and CEO of Stanford Student Enterprises.

Those special fees translated this year to a $119 addition to undergraduates’ University bills. During the first three weeks of each quarter, undergraduates can request refunds from some or all groups, theoretically forfeiting their ability to participate in those groups’ activities.

Of the 1,132 students requesting refunds, 379 requested full refunds from all groups. In all, students took back $115,794, or an average of $102.29 per refund.

This represents a significant one-year increase from winter quarter 2009, in both dollar amount and student requests. Then, 660 students requested refunds totaling $61,156, or an average refund of $92.66. The special fees rate that quarter was $110.

In this academic year, in fall quarter 2009, 788 students took back $79,605 for an average of $101.15 per student. 248 students requested full refunds. By comparison, in fall quarter 2008, a total of 488 students requested $43,385 in refunds.

Student groups’ budgets have historically been protected from the impact of refund season by an ASSU buffer fund. Since 2004, bylaws have said that up to 10 percent of money requested back by students is to come from the buffer fund; after that, refunds are to come from the groups’ budgets directly.

But the second part of that 2004 rule — dipping into groups’ budgets directly for refunds — was never enforced “because there’s never been a need to,” McLaughlin said at the Jan. 12 Undergraduate Senate meeting.

That changed when he alerted the Senate to a looming spike in the refund rate, reflected in yesterday’s numbers. Now, more than $45,000 is proposed to come out of special fees groups’ budgets to cover the refunds.

In terms of absolute dollars expected to drain from groups’ budget, the groups hit hardest are the Stanford Concert Network, with an expected $3,380 deduction, and KZSU, which faces an expected $2,141 deduction.

In terms of total refunds, covered both by groups’ budgets and the buffer fund, nine special fees groups are refunding more than $3,000 each, including Alternative Spring Break, the ASSU Legal Counseling Office, KZSU, the Stanford Organizing Committee for the Arts, the Band, club sports, Stanford Concert Network, The Daily and the Stanford Film Society.

Meanwhile, general fees for publications, programming and community service are facing more than $20,000 in refunds, about $8,700 of which will come from those budgets.

In last spring’s election, student voters approved every special fees group’s request for funding.

On the Web: Download refund data by group (winter quarter 2010) or by quarter (fall 2007-2008 to present). Source: Matt McLaughlin, ASSU financial manager, Jan. 26, 2010.

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