Refund rate is down from winter quarter

April 14, 2010, 1:02 a.m.

At more than $99K, special fees refund requests are still second-highest in three years

The rate and total amount of special fees refund requests declined in spring quarter, potentially reflecting a legislative push made in the winter by the Undergraduate Senate.

In total, there were 959 refund requests totaling $99,776. Of those requests, 322 were for the full amount, representing students who declined to fund any student group with special fees.

The data show a decline from winter quarter, which had 1,132 requests totaling $115,794, with 379 requests for the full amount.

In all major metrics, however<\p>–<\p>the number of refund requests, the refund amount requested and requests for the full amount<\p>–<\p>this quarter represents the second-highest total over the last three academic years, indicating that the baseline for typical refund requests may have risen substantially.

By contrast, spring quarter 2009 had 886 requests for $82,355, and fall quarter 2009 had 788 requests for $79,604.

Also a change from the norm was the decline from winter to spring this year, which had not occurred in either academic year 2008-2009 or 2007-2008.

“Any given year, there are more refunds in spring than in winter than in fall,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Anton Zietsman ’12.

Zietsman credited bills passed to reduce the burden on special fees groups and the time wherein students could request refunds with the winter-to-spring decline.

Refund requests had been at the center of debate in the Senate during winter quarter over special fees funding for student groups. A rise in requests and in the cost of funding the resulting shortfalls for student groups led senators to seek reform in a number of areas relating to special fees, including the ability of students to request refunds and, more contentiously, controlling the size of special fees requests from student groups. This, in turn, led to debate and contention with student group financial officers, who often criticized both the strictness and transparency of policies and enforcement measures.

The expected special fees rate for students next academic year is expected to be $112 per quarter. Six student groups failed to receive special fees funding in last week’s election; if all groups had passed, the rate per quarter would have been $116, Zietsman said. The total per quarter for this academic year was $119.

The Senate on Tuesday discussed a possible error by last year’s Elections Commission that may have led to overcharging students for special fees this year. The Senate remained undecided about what its legal and practical options were for fixing the error.

The numbers for refunds per quarter for the four quarters preceding 2010 are: fall 2008, 488 requests, totaling $43,385, 150 full refunds; winter 2009, 660 requests, totaling $61,156, 230 full refunds; spring 2009, 886 requests, totaling $82,355, 284 full refunds; fall 2009, 788 requests, $79,604, 248 full refunds.

Elizabeth Titus contributed to this report.

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