By Sofia Monroy
This article is the third in a series examining how Stanford — from the institution to its students — handles, allocates and spends money.
Every year, each freshman dorm goes on a myriad of events — from ski trips in Tahoe to full days at Disneyland. These trips aren’t free; each dorm has a budget to spend on various activities and events throughout the year.
Dorm funds primarily come from a combination of house dues paid by each resident at the beginning of the year, according to Communications Director of the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs Pat Lopes Harris.
In the 2018-2019 academic year, residents of frosh dorms pay $133 per quarter, while residents of four-class and upperclass dorms pay $103. The difference in cost is due to transportation costs, Harris said, as freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus.
Ninety-six percent of those funds are received by Residential Education (ResEd) and transferred to house accounts; the University charges a four percent administrative fee. Though each house is allotted an annual budget based on the number of residents in the dorm at the beginning of the year, the dorm receives funds at the beginning of each quarter after residents make their quarterly payments.
The more residents in a dorm, the more house dues are accumulated. As a result, a dorm’s total budget is determined by the number of residents in each dorm in order to ensure a proportional distribution of funds.
For example, this quarter, there is $6,858.24 in Junipero’s account, according to Junipero treasurer Julia Wang ’22. Former Serra treasurer Victor Yin ’21 said he had an account with about $6,500 each quarter last year.
In addition to money from house dues, many dorms on campus obtain funding through grants.
In fall quarter, Junipero received an Experiential Learning Fund (ELF) grant through ResEd to go see Childish Gambino in concert in San Jose. The event was followed by a mandatory talk on the development of stereotypes and racist thinking held in the Junipero dorm lounge for all who attended the concert.
Appointed house treasurers — either a student staff member or member of dorm government — play a major role in managing funds, along with other members of dorm government and staff in conjunction with resident fellows and ResEd financial policies.
Dorm funds are directed toward basic operations and maintenance along with professional and student staff salaries, according to Harris. The remaining money is spent on various social, cultural and educational activities and events throughout the year, from trips to museums to concerts to athletic events.
Many dorms have annual traditional trips for which funding is allocated at the beginning of the year. For example, Serra goes on a rafting trip every year. Similarly, most freshman dorms go on a ski or snow trip during winter quarter. Serra is going skiing in Tahoe the first weekend of February, while Junipero and Burbank are visiting Sequoia National Park for the weekend.
Bigger trips, such as ski trip, have both transportation and house rental costs that can get expensive. Student co-pays, according to Wang, are often used as a sort of security deposit in case anyone decides to back out of the trip last minute when their ticket has already been purchased. Co-pays tend to range in price depending on the size and scope of the trip planned by the dorm. For example, the co-pay for the Serra ski trip last year was $50. The co-pay for Junipero’s snow trip is $20.
“Most costs were covered, but since ski trip and rafting is expensive, there’s going to be a co-pay,” Yin said.
Though deciding where to go on winter trip and what activities to host throughout the year is largely determined by resident staff and fellows in coordination with dorm government, residents’ voices are also heard at weekly house meetings and factor into the decision-making process.
“[I tried to] involve everyone spending-wise and be fair,” Yin said. “One thing we talked about was whatever we planned with the money had to involve a group of people.”
In addition to big-ticket dorm trips, smaller amounts of money are allocated throughout the year for on-call activities and food for each dorm. Dorms also typically purchase merchandise such as hats, shirts or sweatshirts for the dorm. Similarly, a dorm’s resident assistants and treasurer have a debit card so that students or staff can purchase items for the dorm such as decorations for the dorm lounge before events like frosh formal or games or equipment for the lounge area.
“The money carries over from quarter to quarter,” Wang said. “Fall quarter, you usually spend the least amount because dorm gov[ernment] is just coming in. Money is basically allocated based on what people ask for. If anyone wants to buy something for the dorm like ping pong balls, they can ask us and borrow the debit card to go get it.”
But after the numbers are squared away, the result are experiences and trips that many students remember throughout their time at Stanford. Kevin Liao ’21 said one of his favorites was going kayaking with his freshman dorm, Arroyo.
“The trips really gave us an opportunity to forget about school and just enjoy each other’s company,” Liao said.
Contact Sofia Monroy at sofiam ‘at’ stanford.edu.