Staff Ed: SG’s Academic Access Fund is a good first step
Student Government introduced the Academic Access Fund, a $1,000 fund that will make it easier for students to pay for items such as art supplies and theater tickets. This money will be available for students receiving need-based financial aid.
The Editorial Board believes the AAF is a step in the right direction, though we have reservations.
The cost of attending shows, purchasing certain art supplies or photo paper and investing in clothing and equipment for some health and fitness classes can be substantial. Offsetting these costs is a wise use of Undergraduate Activity Fee funds.
Unfortunately, only $1,000 has been allocated for the AAF. If all students who need assistance with curricular expenses apply for a share of the fund, it is unlikely SG will be able to grant all requests. More money will need to be allocated, either by SG or the University to help all students.
It’s also unfortunate the fund is not large enough to assist AU students with purchasing textbooks. Even if students save money with used books and rentals, textbook costs can run into the hundreds of dollars each semester. While we applaud the increased availability of books on reserve in the AU Library, this is not a true substitute for owning the books. More work must be done to help students with this expense.
The AAF has been advertised as only available to students who receive need-based financial aid. While this is not particularly restrictive and eminently logical, it is also impossible for SG to check, as student financial records are private. We hope AU students won’t exploit this loophole and abuse the system, but installing some sort of verification mechanism would be optimal.
In fairness, Senate Speaker Will Mascaro and Comptroller Jake Stone both acknowledged some of these issues and emphasized the program was in a pilot year and not a finished product.
Stone indicated in an email that, based on the performance of the program this year, SG may seek to find more money in its budget or try to push the AAF as a line item in the University budget next year.
This plan is somewhat similar to what happened with mandatory sexual assault prevention training. We think this blueprint could be promising with the fund as well.
The Editorial Board hopes the AAF can resolve these issues and be a thriving policy on campus. The high cost of AU tuition is well documented and serves as a major hurdle for many students to attend this University. It would be a shame if students can’t fully take advantage of all the academic opportunities offered here once they enroll.