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Making sense of student fees: A breakdown of the SU’s budget

Where does the $46.46 each student pays to the Students' Union go?

Through a $46.46 membership fee, the Students’ Union collects nearly $3.2 million in revenue from undergraduate students at the University of Alberta. However, fees only make up 25 per cent of the Students’ Union’s revenue. The non-profit organization also earns money from some of the businesses they run, like SUBmart and SUBprint. Managing the organization’s finances is the responsibility of the Students’ Union vice-president (operations and finance), Emma Ripka.

With that being said, this is how the Students’ Union makes and spends its money.

  • Central Support and Space: The biggest line in the SU’s budget is the cost of running the Students’ Union Building. This includes staff salaries, technical support, facilities and operation, and office administration.
  • Student Service Activities: The students’ union provides a number of services to support students’ needs.
    • Leadership seminars and events like GovWeek and the Alberta Student Leadership Summit.
    • Safewalk: A free service that offers to walk users home at night.
    • Peer Support Centre: A space for students to talk about their problems confidentially.
    • Student Group Services: Registers and assists hundreds of student clubs through granting and executive training.
    • Infolink: Student-run directories that help connect students to different resources, including housing and job registries.
    • Sustain SU: The Students’ Union’s sustainability initiative, which runs things like bike rentals and the weekly farmers’ market.

  • Programming and Event Activities: The Students’ Union runs a number of events on North Campus during the school year, with the biggest events happening at the beginning of the fall semester.
    • Week of Welcome
    • Orientation
    • Campus Cup
    • Students’ Union Christmas Party for Kids
    • Movie nights
    • SUBstage sessions
    • Antifreeze
    • Comedy and open mic nights in SUB and Dewey’s

  • Dedicated Fee units: In addition to the membership fee, students also pay $45.53 in dedicated fee units (DFUs) which goes toward various student organizations. These fees are created through referenda and are renewed every five years.
    • Access Fund ($14.56): Provides financial aid to students who are unable to take out student loans.
    • First Alberta Campus Radio Association Fund ($2.18): Helps run CJSR-FM, the campus and community radio station.
    • SUB Renovation Fund ($9.50): Pays for the SUB renovations completed in 2015, including the glass wall and stairway at the south end of the building.
    • The Landing Fund ($1.55): A space that supports LGBTQ students. Runs programming and workshops on promoting gender and sexual diversity.
    • Campus Food Bank ($1.00): Gives out food and other toiletries to over 2,700 students and alumni in need.
    • Campus Recreation Enhancement Fund ($4.10): Supports a number of recreational programs like drop-in swimming sessions, Wilson Climbing Centre activities, and other club sports.
    • Alberta Public Interest Research Group (APIRG) Fund ($3.54):Helps supports local activism with grant funding and workshops.
    • World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Fund $0.49Helps send refugees to Canada to finish their studies.
    • Gateway Student Journalism Fund $3.49Supports The Gateway as an independent student publication and helps pay for our magazine, website, and staff.

  • Representation Activties: This is the cost of the Students’ Union’s political activities and advocacy efforts, like securing mental health funding from the government, or discounted transit options for students.
    • Membership fees for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS)
    • The salaries of the five SU executives ($36,000 before taxes.)
    • Facilitating elections

  • Dewey’s and RATT: While the Students’ Union operates these two bars on campus, neither are revenue-generating operations. Both are expected to run deficits in the 2018-19 year.

Correction – October 29, 2018: The numbers for the Students’ Union executive salaries were incorrect. A previous version of the article stated that executive salaries ranged from $46,000 to $48,000 per year, but those numbers included funding for platform initiatives and administrative expenses.

Nathan Fung

Nathan Fung is a sixth-year political science student and The Gateway's news editor for the 2018-19 year. He can usually be found in the Gateway office, turning coffee into copy.

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