Breaking down the activity fee

By Caitlin Kennedy April 22, 2020

Students receive their bill from the Institute each semester, where there is a line item labeled “Undergraduate Activity Fee.” So what’s this fee? Every student enrolled at Rensselaer pays an activity fee, which is actually three separate fees; class dues, the Union activity fee, and an athletics fee. Graduate students pay a different graduate fee. 

Your class dues are a small fee that your class council uses to plan events specifically for your cohort. They subsidize hockey tickets, give away hats, and save up for Senior Week to plan tons of cool events. The largest portion of the overall activity fee is the Union activity fee that covers an incredibly wide array of things.

For one, it covers the physical Union spaces. The “Union” manages the Rensselaer Union, Mueller Center, and Playhouse. It is important to remember that these spaces operate year-round for your convenience and growth as a student. The Institute covers utilities for these buildings, while the Union activity fee covers furniture, equipment, renovations, and everything else that goes into running a building. 

The fee also covers all of the programming that occurs out of these spaces. In the Union, there are multicultural and diversity programs that are open to all. Student legal services are free to all RPI students and covered by the fee. All subsidies that clubs and organizations receive are from this fee as well. These club budgets subsidize equipment purchases, travel to competitions, national chapter dues, conference registrations, food for events, and so much more. Intramurals and fitness classes out of the Mueller Center are subsidized. Wellness events like Mental Health Monday, Wellness Wednesdays, and many other events would not be possible without the Union activity fee. The Archer Center for Student Leadership, which provides services to all students and student groups, also gets a portion of the Union fee. All salaries and benefits of Union employees are covered by the activity fee as well. This includes staff in the Union and Mueller center as well as the work-study and student jobs held in those buildings. 

These are not all fully covered by the fee students pay. The Union also receives money from all of the food services, businesses, and vendors located in the building, including Father’s Marketplace, the Campus Unisex Salon, and more. A portion of sales from the Rensselaer Collegiate Store are also returned to the Union and used to create student programs. 

Each year, the Union publishes the Union Annual Report. This is an in-depth breakdown of all of the money, expenses, and income the Union has in the past fiscal year. It also explains how the fee for the upcoming year is calculated. The Executive Board goes through club budgeting each year and makes a projection of our upcoming expenses and income. We determine the fee based on the difference between these two numbers. The Student Senate then approves this fee recommendation. From there it goes to President Shirley Ann Jackson and the Board of Trustees who determine what amount will be charged. 

Historically, this recommendation has always been accepted, which is a testament to the amount of time and effort students and staff put in every year to budgeting. We as students want to charge the minimum amount while ensuring we can offer the absolute best programs and facilities to our fellow students.