Students will have the chance to vote for or against a three dollar green fee this November. The fee would fund student research or projects that improve sustainability at UAA.
“Referenda #12-01: Green Fee” would apply to all of UAA’s students taking 3 credits or more. Last year, 14,354 students took 3 or more credits at the Anchorage campus, so the expected revenue is $43,062 per semester.
The speaker of USUAA, Daniel Ribuffo, and Senator Johnnie Templeton, sponsored the bill. Templeton believes the project can benefit everyone at UAA.
“It’s a great way to get students involved in sustainable projects, which eventually benefits them in the long run,” Templeton said.
Templeton wants the bill to be large in scope, funding improvements to existing infrastructure as well as supporting student research.
“If students want to replace regular bulbs with LED bulbs, that’s a student project the board can fund. They can do research, a project, or just improve on something already available,” Templeton said.
Many schools around the nation already have a green fee. UAF students voted for a $20 ‘green fee’ back in 2009. When it passed, UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers pledged to match the $500,000 dollars revenue, according to the Fairbanks Daily Minor.
During the first year, revenue added up so quickly that UAF didn’t know how to spend it. They eventually funded several projects, including one that replaced 4.5 percent of the school’s energy use, and a large bike program that allows students to rent bicycles with their student card.
UAA’s sustainability director, Paula Williams, says that as of now, the plan at Fairbanks is successful.
“There were struggles with how to set it up and how to determine which projects would get funded to start out with, but it has brought solar panels and an electric shuttle bus to Fairbanks and has funded some good student research,” Williams said.
To receive any funding through UAA’s program, students would have to get a faculty or staff member to support their written proposal. A green fee board would then distribute funds to successful projects.
The board would include the Director of Sustainability, one
faculty member, two students appointed by the USUAA president, and up to three USUAA members.
Williams supports the bill.
“It will directly support students who are interested in sustainability – who want to have job experience in that field or who want to do a project or research in that area. As I understand the current proposal, funds would be distributed similarly to how the Graduate Student Association (GSA) distributes their scholarships each year,” Williams said.
Like GSA, this new sustainability board would rank proposals according to guidelines, such as the benefit to students, to the community, and project attainability.
Templeton said that the project has yet to experience much opposition, and he is confident that USUAA will approve the bill and that students will vote on it in November.
The bill originated during the summer, and the only debate has been over what amount should be charged, five or three dollars. Supporters agreed that three dollars was a good starting point.
It remains unclear how many students would be granted money. Templeton said that it all depends on the proposal.
“If there are ten students and there’s not enough to do all ten, then the board would decide on which projects to fund,” Templeton said.
There currently is no sustainability group on campus funded through student fees. The state funds the Office of Sustainability, and the Office supports the Sustainability Club.
The Renewable Energy Alaska Project has endorsed the bill, but has yet to donate any money to the fund. Besides student fees, it’s unclear from where other funding would come from, but Templeton hopes some entrepreneurial students will find it.
“If a student comes up with a proposal and they take the time to investigate further funding from grants and charitable donations, they have a much greater chance to be approved by the board,” Templeton said.
Templeton said that he spoke with a couple students who are interested in submitting proposals. Williams also knows of several students who are interested.
Some incoming students are intrigued by the bill.
“I think it’s a good idea. I mean three bucks for me is nothing, especially if you’re paying $100 for a book, this at least goes towards research that could benefit everybody,” first year student Haley Lorenson said.
Williams hopes that UAA can improve on the model that Fairbanks uses.
“The students there on the RISE board are very motivated and active. I hope that the fee might bring that level of commitment and involvement to students at UAA,” Williams said.