Pending approval by the South Dakota Board of Regents, growing student organizations like Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning (AWOL) are expecting to benefit from last month’s General Activities Fees increase vote.
According to the General Activity Fee increase proposal presented to the University of South Dakota Student Government Association, AWOL will receive $12,000 in specific recommendations of GAF funding for fiscal year 2016.
Junior Ashley McKeown, president of AWOL, said the organization currently needs $66,000 to operate all trips and expenses. The organization received about $11,000 from GAF this year, she said. AWOL expects an increase as GAF revenue rises.
Normally, the organization handles expenses through year-long fundraising, administrative fees paid by students and partial GAF funding.
“We are also hoping that with the new GAF funding it will, in fact, allow more of our students access to the program,” McKeown said. “Because of the increase of funding, not only can we offer more trips, different learning opportunities, hopefully some more scholarships, so students have even more of a reason to apply for the AWOL programming.”
USD students voted in early March to increase the GAF cost by $3.50 per credit hour for each of the next three years.
McKeown said AWOL is a growing organization that needed the increase. The GAF increase would allow the program to meet the demand of an increased number of applicants and trips.
When she first started, AWOL had one faculty-led trip, McKeown said. Now, 12-15 trips are led by students each year.
If money is organized in the right way, even more trips with more students will be available without faculty leadership, McKeown said.
“A lot of the problems are that we are not able to get enough graduate assistants or faculty members to go on the trips,” McKeown said. “But now that we don’t have to send those faculty members, we can basically send as many as we want if we can get the money organized in the right way.”
The organization tries to make every trip as affordable as possible.
Sophomore Taylor Hyde went to Charlotte, N.C., for AWOL during winter break and said the trips are affordable.
“If you work hard enough to raise the money through fundraising, half your trip could potentially be taken care of,” Hyde said.
(Photo: University of South Dakota AWOL participants Joanne Trio, left, and Caitlin Mink, right, work on a Habitat for Humanity site while on a service-learning spring break trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. Submitted Photo / The Volante)