Student Activity Fee - Brief History

A Brief History of the Student Activity Fee


The Student Activities Fee (SAF) is a mandatory fee included in the University Billing Statement to all students. The fee is currently set every two years by the Student Assembly (SA) and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GPSA) for the purpose of providing financial support to student organizations for their programming. To receive funding, organizations and their programs must be primarily student-determined, student-directed, membership and participation should reasonably enable any interested student to compete and/or join and must be seen to provide a valuable service to the Cornell community. The fee is established in the fall semester on alternating years, following open hearings and consultation with the groups involved.

When allocating money to student organizations, the Commissions follow funding guidelines established by the Assemblies. Organizations have the right to appeal any funding requests to their respective Assembly.

Selected History
1948 $1 fee created by Trustees  
1962 Student government responsible for activity fee budget
January 1972 Board adopts fee as set by University Senate of $150. Only a portion of this was for student activities. The fee merged into one tuition rate.
1979-1980 Undergraduate $10.00 Graduate $4.00
February 1980 Campus Council passed legislation which stated:
  • A mandatory student activities fee shall be included in the University billing statement to all students, separate and distinct from the college tuition. There shall be two separate fees for undergraduate and graduate students, and the funds will be directly appropriated to the respective funding commissions for allocation.
  • The students shall determine the level of the activities fee in a community referendum held once every two years. The undergraduate and graduate students shall vote separately for their respective fees. The ballot must include at least three (3) choices to be determined by the campus government.
April 1980 (1980-1982) Undergraduate $11.00 Graduate $4.50
January 13, 1981 SA Charter, Article VII, Section 7:

"S.A. will determine the policies for the allocation and use of funds for student organizations. The SA will also hear appeals from decisions of the Undergraduate Student Finance Commission, the Graduate Student Finance Commission and the International Student Finance Commission."

April 1982 (1982-1984) Undergraduate $12.00 Graduate $5.50
March 1984 (1984-1986) Undergraduate $17.00 Graduate $8.00
  25% of the raise to go to the Cornell Concert Commission
April 1985 The SA passed legislation that "The SA hold open hearings on the level of the student activities fee during October. The SA would then establish the Student Activities Fee level at the November meeting. The revised fee would become effective the next fall.
November 1986 (1986-1988) Undergraduate    $20.00 Graduate    $15.50
November 1987 (1988-1990) Undergraduate    $39.50 Graduate    $24.00
*lump sum allocation of $18,500 from SFC and GSFC modified to $1.00 per capita. SFC and GSFC allocation reduced by $1.00. Cornell Concert Commission subsidy increased 1988-90 from $1.00 to $4.50 per capita.


April 1988 SA passes legislation upon recommendation of SAFC that no more than 30% of the Student Activities Fee subsidy can be allocated to club sports in any given year.


May 1988 Legislation passed by SA clarifying direct reporting relationship of the Student Finance Commissions to the Assembly and changing the name of the Student Finance Commissions (SFC/GSFC) to the SAFC. Guidelines established and agreed upon by the organizations receiving monies directly from the SA through the Student Activities Fee and placed as an appendix to the Charter.
1988-1989 SAF Shown as a separate item on the bursar bill, distinct from tuition
December 7, 1989 Undergraduate $44.26 Graduate $27.50
February 19, 1990 Letter from President Rhodes requesting that SAF be set at whole even dollar amount.
March 29, 1990 SAF amended and ratified as whole even-dollar amount.
March 1990 (1990-1992) Undergraduate $44.00 Graduate $28.00
September 20, 1990 Unions and Activities announces SAFC deficit of $133,665 due to over-allocation by Commissions, over-expenditures by organizations, courtesy account deficits and deficit from previous year and mismanagement by Unions & Activities.


November 8, 1990 University Audit Report presented to SA outlining root causes of deficit, and remedies.
December 10, 1990 In special session, the SA unanimously approves the organizational transfer of the SAFCs to the Office of the Assemblies
February 1991 President Rhodes accepts SA proposal that SAFC deficit of $50,000 be amortized over two-year period of time and Unions and Activities will repay SAFC $64,178 for mismanagement.
March 1991 “Guidelines for Funded Organizations” (1991-1993) passed by SA, and supersedes all previous legislation.
May 1991 Oath of Office developed and required of all SAFC/SAGFC commissioners
July 1991 SAFC/SAFGC placed under the administrative responsibility of the Office of the Assemblies in an effort to strengthen and improve procedures and to more closely align the function and communications of the SA and its funding commissions.
October 1991 (1992-1994) Undergraduate $56.00 Graduate $32.00
February 1992
  • “Guidelines for Funded Organizations” amended to include:
  • $2 of the Class Council allocation of the Student Activities Fee shall be even divided among the four classes.
  • $1 of the allocation shall be allocated to the senior class to fund events during Senior Week
May 1993 Approval of Graduate and Professional Student Assembly by the Board of Trustees and the Graduate Finance Commission transferred under the governance of the GPSA.
November 1993 (1994-1996) Undergraduate $66.00 Graduate $32.00
November 14, 1993 SA agrees to allocate $20,000 each to the Senior ('94), Junior ('95), Sophomore ('96) and Freshman ('97) Classes for speaker and convocation events. $20,000 was also allocated to the Class of '93 for a reunion event given that they contributed to the fee collected and it was felt they should benefit equally from the $100,000 reserve in the SAFC account.


April 18, 1994 President Rhodes approves SA and GPSA Charter Appendices, “Guidelines for Funded Organizations” with the understanding that the Assemblies will continue to recommend the fee as adopted for review and final approval to the President.


November 1995 (1996-1998) Undergraduate $74.00 $32.00
November 1997 (1998-2000) Undergraduate $94.00 $48.00
December 3, 1997 President Rawlings approved the SAF with a request that the SA address the communication plan by which students would be notified of the option of a refund for NYPIRG, the refund process, and rationale for this refund policy. The president also requested a review of the process by which the SAF is set and approved.


April 30, 1998 NYPIRG funding rescinded by the SA; Undergraduate SAF for 1998-2000 adjusted to $88.00
November 1999 (2000-2002) Undergraduate $92.00 Graduate & Professional $50.00
November 2001 (2002-2004) Undergraduate $124.00 Graduate & Professional $50.00
November 2003 (2004-2006) Undergraduate $167.00 Graduate & Professional $62.00
November 2005 (2006-2008) Undergraduate $181 Graduate & Professional $68.00
November 2007 (2008-2010) Undergraduate $204.00 Graduate & Professional $70.00
November 2009 (2010-2012) Undergraduate $216.00 Graduate & Professional $76.00
November 2011 (2012-2014) Undergraduate $229 Graduate & Professional $81.00
November 2013 (2014-2016) Undergraduate $236 Graduate & Professional $81.00
November 2015 (2016-2018) Undergraduate $241 Graduate & Professional $85.00
November 2017 (2018-2020) Undergraduate $234* Graduate & Professional $84.00
  *Cornell Cinema defunded for 2018-2020 cycle