NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In addition to deciding who will represent students in the Rutgers University Student Assembly next year, underclassmen are also being asked to vote whether to add small fees for organizations that support student issue to university tuition bills.
If the student body approves one or both of the fees in this today's online election, and at least 10% of the 25,000 eligible student voters cast ballots one way or the other, the fees will survive to the next stage of implementation.
If the 10% threshold is met and one or both fees pass, they will go before the Rutgers University Board and Governors and the University Administrative Business Services Office for final approval.
Both candidates for RUSA President support the fee increase, which would send $1.00 from every student to the United States Student Association (USSA) and $2.50 to New Jersey United Students (NJUS), an organization founded in 2011.
Similar fees already exist to fund the student newspaper and NJ Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization (NJPIRG) with student chapters.
If approved, the new fees would send more than a combined $100,000 to NJUS and USSA each semester.
Advocates say the fees will pay for themselves by assisting NJUS in hiring its first full-time organizer, who would help to fight against tuition hikes and the exploitation of student debt in the coming years.
NJUS is the only statewide student organization in New Jersey, and was founded at Rutgers University.
NJUS was part of the coalition that supported the "Building Our Future" Bond Act, passed overwhelmingly by New Jersey voters in November 2012. The Bond Act borrowed $750 million dollars to fund the construction of more college classrooms and academic facilities like laboratories.
Last year's RUSA President John Connelly wrote a letter in support of the proposed fees: "Students need a voice speaking on their behalf. The United States Student Association and New Jersey United Students have a proven track record of educating, mobilizing, and training, young people to take the lead in politics. The results speak for themselves."
In the 1960's the USSA lobbied for the creation of the Pell Grant, and decades later helped to pass 2009's Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which cut subsidies to for-profit student loan companies and increased Pell Grant funding.
Among their other accomplishments are the College Cost Reduction Act, which reduced student loan interest rates gradually between 2007 and 2011.
"The United States Student Association works on the national level to get more funding for things like TRIO and Pell Grants," wrote Connelly, who attended Rutgers thanks to support from the Equal Opportunity Fund (EOF) progrm.
"If you are the recipient of a Pell Grant, and EOF grant, or are a participant in a TRIO program, the work done in these organizations impact your life every day," wrote the ex-President.
According to Connelly, students are graduating with an average of $26,600 in debt, while tuition has increased by 1,120% over the past three decades.