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Student Services Fees: Trends & Guidelines Clare Simonis, Research Associate

What is a whitepaper? A whitepaper is a research based guide that helps solve problems. Why should student leaders read Athenaeum Group’s whitepapers? Here’s why: we did our homework, and we care about helping student organizations. Student Services Fees at the University of Minnesota are a viable method to secure funding for a student organization. Is your organization a potential applicant, New Applicant or a fees veteran? We’ve analyzed fees data from the past five years to help your student organization navigate through Student Service Fees trends. Based on this year’s detailed rationales, we’ve also compiled a set of guidelines that indicate successful (and unsuccessful) applicants. We hope our Student Services Fees whitepaper helps your organization better understand fees trends and position your group to become a competitive applicant. Clare Simonis, Research Associate Athenaeum Group

Student Services Fees Overview Student services fees are a popular method for registered student organizations to receive funding. With student organization funding topping $2 million, participating in the fees process presents an opportunity for student organizations to gain resources to increase organizational effectiveness and impact. The fees process, however, is involved and time-consuming. It requires internal – financial and other organizational – data to complete the application. The process also includes a presentation and potential followup meetings with the fees committee to clarify any questions or to dispute the fee’s initial funding recommendations. Due to the potential benefit this process presents to registered student organizations, it is worthwhile for your group to understand fees trends, including indicators of successful and unsuccessful applicants. To better equip organizations applying for fees, this paper aims to communicate the findings from analyzing fees requests, recommendations, and rationales.

Why should student leaders read this whitepaper? By reading this whitepaper, you’ll learn the following:

1. Student Services Fees trends 2. Indicators of successful and unsuccessful applicants

Student Services Fees Trends 2008-2012 Increasing Number of Applicants and

Five-year Trend Final Recommendations (Student ‌ Number of Applicants

Overall Funding In the past four years, the number of registered student organizations has increased nearly two-fold. In the 2008-2009 request process, 35 groups applied for fees. 64 student groups applied this year for 20122013 school year funding. Final funding recommendations made by the committee are positively correlated (coefficient of .91) with the number of applicants. Total recommended funding for student organizations was $1.5 million for the 20082009 school year. For the 2012-2013 school year, total funding increased to $2,282,192.





Keep this trend in mind when applying for fees. More group applications do not reduce chances of receiving fees. This means groups can help each other throughout the fees process.




40 $1,500,000 30















Trend in New Applicants New Applicants Returning Applicants

Funding Percentages Remain Stable Year-to-Year Despite the increase in applications and committee funding recommendations year-to-year, the average approved funding percentage (fees committee final recommendation/student organizational initial funding request) has remained relatively constant. From the 2008-2009 school year to the 2012-2013 school year, the average group receives 70-74% of its initial request. It is important, however, to keep in mind that the approved funding requests can vary greatly between each group. While some groups receive 100% of their initial requests, others receive 30%, and some groups do not earn any student services fees dollars. This variance will later be discussed in the success factors section.

Analyzing New Applicant trends can explain the variance in Approved Funding Percentage



The number of New Applicants has remained around 28% of total applicants in the past four fee cycles

New Applicants are not necessarily new groups. Student organizations applying for fees have to exist as a registered student group through Student Unions & Activities at least a year before applying. Some New Applicants just meet this requirement while others have existed as a registered student group for several years. The number of New Applicants has increased along with the number of total applicants. While this number has increased, the percentage of fee applicants that are groups that have not previously applied has remained between 24-33%.

Comparing New Applicants to Returning Applicants How do New Applicants compare to Returning Applicants? There are several points of difference between the two when analyzing applicant requests and committee funding decisions:

Percentage of Initial Request Funded – New Applicants vs. All Applicants 75%

73% 70%


1. The average New Applicant applies for less fees 2. The average New Applicant receive less of its initial request compared to overall average

58% 51%



On average, New Applicant requests are less than half than the overall average request. The New Applicants are generally approved for a smaller percentage of their initial requests.





Indicators of Successful (and Unsuccessful) Applicants What does this mean for fees applying student organizations? With certain groups receiving varying amounts of their initial requests, it is important to investigate the reasons why some groups consistently receive 100% of their initial request while others fail to receive any fees funding for their organization.

Using the Guidelines for Decision Making for Success Each year after making its funding recommendations, the fees committee posts majority and minority rationales, explaining the reasoning behind the committee’s decision. For the 2012-2013 school year funding, the committee cited the “Guidelines for Decision Making” found in the student organization fees handbook in order to justify, reduce, or refuse student organizations’ funding requests. Apart from meeting minimum requirements, successful applicants demonstrate how they meet these guidelines for decision making.

We analyzed what guidelines were cited in the rationales for the 18 groups that received 100% funding, as well as what guidelines were cited for funding reductions and refusals. Keep in mind this analysis reflects for the 2012-2013 fees process – not past years’ rationales.

Servicing Students, Supplementing Curriculum and Fostering Community For both successful and unsuccessful applicants, the #1 cited guideline was Guideline #1. This guideline accounted for over 20% of all cited guidelines in the funding rationales published by the committee. Guideline #1 requires student organizations to demonstrate they contribute to one or more of the following:  Providing a service to the student body  Supplementing the academic curriculum  Helping to foster a sense of community on the Twin Cities Campus The first and third bullets were the most cited out of these three.

Applicants that received 100% of their initial request qualitatively and financially demonstrated requirements in Guideline #1 Student organizations should keep this guideline in mind when completing their applications and presenting to the committee. Successful candidates can prove how their group serves the student body, supplements curriculum and/or helps foster a sense of community. It is important to demonstrate this qualitatively and financially. Organizations’ budgets should demonstrate how fees dollars will meet these criteria. If a group intends to use fees funding for programming, they should be able to explain how the programming aligns with this guideline. Otherwise, they may face deductions. For example, in several cases, the committee deducted conference travel expenses from organizations’ funding requests because they did not believe those types of events explicitly provided a service, supplemented curriculum, or fostered campus community.

Frequently Cited Guidelines for Successful Applicants There are several other guidelines cited (besides Guideline #1) that can be used as success indicators for fee-applying organizations. Looking at the most cited guidelines for groups receiving 100% funding, critical success factors become clear. The most heavily cited guidelines were numbers 2, 6, and 7.

Guidelines Followed by Successful Applicants Guideline 2 – Programs and Services to the Student Body (17%)* Quality and quantity of programs and services provided to the student body, consistent with the mission of the organization.

Guideline 6 – Benefits to Those Outside of the Organization (17%) Demonstration of benefits of programs and services to students who pay the student services fees but do not participate in the programs and services.

Guideline 7 – Efforts to Secure Outside Funding (17%) Efforts to secure funding in addition to the student services fees.

*Percent of total citations (excluding Guideline #1) for groups receiving 100% funding

Frequently Cited Guidelines for Unsuccessful Applicants Guidelines cited for unsuccessful groups overlapped with guidelines for successful groups (Guidelines 2 and 6 were cited heavily for both groups). The top four guidelines for candidates who received either funding cuts or refusals were Guidelines 2, 3, 5, and 6.

Guidelines Cited for Funding Cuts Guideline 6 – Benefits to Those Outside Organizations (18%)* Demonstration of benefits of programs and services to students who pay the student services fees but do not participate in the programs and services.

Guideline 5 – Targets Large Number (15%) Targeting of programs and services to the largest number of students consistent with the need

Guideline 2 – Programs and Services to the Student Body (14%) Quality and quantity of programs and services provided to the student body, consistent with the mission of the organization.

Guideline 3 – Service Demand (12%) Extent of and demand for the programs and services provided. Groups must quantify their answer by such things as attendance numbers at events, number of phone calls / office visits, inquiries, etc. Groups must specify the method of tabulation and provide specific documentation upon request. *Percent of total citations (excluding Guideline #1) for groups receiving 100% funding

Concluding Remarks Whether your student organization is a potential, firsttime or returning applicant, it is important to understand the profile of funding requests and subsequent committee funding recommendations to gauge how your student group compares to peer groups. When applying and presenting to the Student Services Fees Committee, it is critical to follow the handbook. Ensure your group meets the minimum requirements. Meeting minimum requirements does not warrant funding; rather, it simply allows a group to be considered for funding. Groups need to look at the “Guidelines for Decision Making” to be a competitive applicant. These criteria need to be demonstrated in the application, as well as be clearly explained when talking about budgets. Budget items that don’t align with these guidelines will likely result in a reduction in a group’s request. Remember that collaboration can never hurt. Analysis of fees in the past years shows that more applicants results in higher total dollars recommended by the fees committee. This means that student groups are not competing against each other for fees. Do not be afraid to ask experienced, successful student organization how to use the Student Services Fees process to benefit your student organization.

Student Services Fees: Trends & Guidelines (Updated 4.4.12)  

Student Services Fees Trends

Student Services Fees: Trends & Guidelines (Updated 4.4.12)  

Student Services Fees Trends