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Fall refund rate shows ‘troubling’ rise in full refund requests

Special fees refund requests for fall quarter show a sharp increase in full refunds despite a decrease in the overall number of requests and the dollar amount requested in comparison to the past year.

The ASSU Undergraduate Senate, especially the Appropriations Committee, has been grappling with different ideas to lower the refund rate in recent months and last year. The high volume of refund requests pulls money back from student groups that receive special fees. (The Daily receives special fees.)

This quarter saw, among undergraduates, 559 refund requests, 429 of which were full refunds that asked for all $111 back. This accounted for $56,245 requested back, with the average refund asking for $100.

(ANASTASIA YEE/The Stanford Daily)

In comparison, spring 2010 saw 959 refunds, 322 of which were full requests; $99,776 was refunded in total, making the average refund request $104.

Although the total number of requests dropped along with the total amount of money refunded, Senate Chair Michael Cruz ’12 and Appropriations Chair Rafael Vasquez ’12 remained concerned about the sharp rise in full refund requests.

Last spring quarter saw 36 percent full requests, whereas this quarter saw 77 percent of requests asking for all money back.

“This is a troubling trend,” Cruz said. “Efforts from last year’s Appropriations Committee didn’t see effect.”

“Partial refunds are usually students requesting money back from one or a few groups,” he added. “Full refunds are students that are completely opting out of student life.”

Cruz added that while the drop in total requests is promising, the number, at 559 requests, is still higher than the Senate’s goal to return to earlier years’ levels. Fall 2007 had 411 undergraduate refund requests, and fall 2008 had 488. Fall 2009 had 788 requests.

“Some measures have been effective,” Cruz said. “But this is a hugely larger number of full refunds. Appropriations still has a lot to do.”

In an attempt to reduce student refunds, the Senate proposed, then retracted, a bill in early October that would have required students to request refunds in person rather than online, as they are currently available. Last spring, the Senate also shortened the refund period from three weeks to two weeks in an attempt to curb refund rates.

Currently, students can request refunds online during the first two weeks of the quarter from some or all special fees groups. Special fees groups have the option of refusing services to students who request a refund of special fees from the group.

“Fall quarter tends to be lowest, then later in the year the rate escalates,” Cruz said, adding that more students on campus become aware of the refund process as word spreads during the year.

Although the current Appropriations Committee has only been working since the beginning of the school year, Vasquez said that plans are in motion to bring down refund rates through increased awareness.

“One thing we want to do with group financial officers is education—what special fees do and how they affect student groups,” he said.

Appropriations is also looking to require an ASSU special fees logo on all events hosted by special fees groups, Vasquez said. Currently, all groups that receive ASSU general fees must include the ASSU logo on their flyers.

“If students see the [special fees] logo, maybe they can see the value in that programming,” he said.

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Ellen Huet

Ellen Huet

Ellen Huet is currently a senior staff writer at The Daily; she joined the staff in fall 2008 and served one volume as managing news editor in fall and early winter of 2010-2011. Reach her at ehuet at stanford dot edu. Fan mail and sternly worded complaints are equally welcome.