Upstanders. Political Action Club. Rho Kappa. Indian Student Association. American Sign Language. Model UN. Spanish Club. Bright posters are plastered onto every wall in the hallways, chasing students around wherever they go. In years past, walking down the halls and seeing a poster for an interesting club would spark the curiosity of participation in many students, nervous excitement for the first club meeting blossomed. Students eagerly eyed different associations colorfully calling for students to join their activity. More recently, though, students have begun to wearily eye posters in the wake of the new fees attached to each club and activity.
The new fee entails a $25 dollar fee for clubs, such as Indian Student Association, and a $65 dollar fee for activities such as honors societies. Only 27 stipends (one stipend per 100 students) can be awarded to potential sponsors, when there are 52 clubs, as written in Schedule A of the collective bargaining agreement that the Oswego Education Association has with the Board of Education. However, this money only goes towards the district, and separate clubs may attach an additional fee for the club’s use. The fees, as Assistant Principal Julie Lam said, are a response to a deficit in the district. As a result of these expenses, students are left with the decision of which clubs to participate in and which ones to drop.
As of this year, clubs are expected to meet a quota of students in order for them to be approved to go on. With talk of lowering participation of clubs, Lam talked about her take on student interest. She said she did not feel as though the fee will reduce participation, and that interest is a key factor for any club.
“Clubs are student interest driven and you should be demonstrating that [there are] at least twenty people in the school who are interested in the same thing that this club is representing,” Lam said.
However, with the additional fees this year, the quota might be difficult to meet. Due to the new impending fees of at least $25 dollars per club, senior Enan Srivastava, the president of Model UN and a participant of the Political Action Club, was not happy with having to pay.
“If we look at what [the fee] is doing to honors societies and all the things our school is proud of, it’s decreasing membership,” Srivastava said.
Freshman Jenna Swenson, who wanted to join marching band, was unable to as she did not have the money to pay the increased fee. Swenson said she was uneasy about the payment, as her lack of participation in marching band and other activities would hinder her ability to explore her interests.
“If you’re paying a lot of money for all the clubs, then you’re going to be limited to everything compared to a different school who doesn’t charge as much,” Swenson added.
For those who have varied interests, the additional payments might limit what is available to them, like they are for senior Krupa Parmar who is experiencing the effects of the recent budget cuts.
“I’m a Senior and this is my last year so I want to make the most of it, but I’m having to pay for each club which is a little bit upsetting,” Parmar said.
Looking forward, the effect of the fees may not be just for current students, but can be an issue for future students, as well. Concerned that her sister, a freshman, would hesitate to join clubs due to the fee, senior Elana Adler said she would like her sister to join clubs, regardless of it. However, Adler and her twin brother are headed to college and, being in a middle-class family, paying numerous fees is not financially ideal.
“I want to see her do anything and everything she wants, but … we have to save money, the district is not doing great things with that,” Adler added.
Even though budget cuts can be inconvenient, according to Parmar and Adler, the district’s tightening budget is still a very real problem.
“I think they have a right to collect fees, I think the amount they are asking for is… a lot. Students who participate in more than one [activity], who have siblings… it’s a lot to ask for,” Adler said.
However, sophomore Nathaniel Carlson noticed that the club fees do not go towards the club itself, rather the district. When reached out to for comment, Lam added that the fact was correct.
“They are taking an unfair amount of money for the school’s profit. It should be like the money for the clubs goes towards the clubs, so I feel like that part is quite unfair,” sophomore Nathaniel Carlson said.
Accumulating fees and payments, though, do not only impact a family’s finances but can also have an effect on a student’s college applications.
“Some people don’t have enough money to join clubs, and I know colleges look for participation in school activities, so the less clubs you join, I feel like the less chance you have to getting into a college,” freshman Jenna Swenson said.
While students may find it difficult to join clubs at the new cost, Lam said the number of activities a student participates in may not be the crucial factor in the way colleges view extracurriculars.
“I don’t think it would affect the college application process that much because in talking to college recruiters and admission officers, they want to see students not spreading themselves thin,” Lam said. “Being a part of three things and consistently going to the meetings and going to the events is more of what colleges want to see.”
Finding money to keep clubs alive proves to be difficult. However, club sponsors often try to accommodate various students’ interests.
“I think the more fundraising we can do to raise money is helpful for the cost of any of the activities we do and in the long run if there is a fee associated with that so that all students can join if presented the opportunity,” Spoken Word Poetry Club Heather Zaehler said.
TO WHAT EXTENT WILL ACTIVITY & CLUB FEES AFFECT YOU AS A STUDENT?
French Club and French National Honors Society sponsor Amy Whitlock has attempted to adjust the fee for the Honors Society. She said she felt as though the club fees are reasonable; however, the activity fees were too much, in her opinion. As a result, she has tried to accommodate to her students’ interests.
“For honors societies, what we are thinking about doing, is only charging seniors the activity fee while sophomores and juniors who will only pay the initial fee of thirty dollars to get in and then they won’t be paying again until they graduate,” Whitlock said.
How a club survives frequent budget cuts according to Lam is not entirely determined by the number of students joining, but by the passion of the existing members.
“Clubs like Spoken Word have a smaller group of kids, but those kids are also very passionate about the performance and competition piece,” Lam said. “So I would venture to say, that it’s not so determined by the number of students interested in it, but there’s a niche where there are a set of students that are very committed.”
Despite the notion that clubs are only to be joined for the sole purpose of being written on resumes, Srivastava added that he did so simply because he enjoys them.
“I love the clubs that I’m in and I do a lot of them. I will continue to do them,” Srivastava said.
For students like Srivastava, there are still ways to keep their interests alive through their own actions. Community participation has a lot more of an impact than previously thought. Lam said that as students and staff of the community, people have the right to speak their opinions about the fees.
“I think the responsibility lies in our community members and expressing their opinions … And you have the right to voice your opinions whether that’s talking with your administrators or at a board of education meeting,” Lam said. “They have a portion of the meeting where it’s open for community members to speak. You have that opportunity,” Lam added.
Regardless of the decisions or actions of current students attempting to work with budget cuts, future East students will face the outcomes.
“I’m a senior so I’ve already participated in a lot of clubs for the past three years so I’m fortunate for that, but for underclassmen and students to come, it’ll impact them in a negative way because they won’t be able to participate that much,” Parmar said.
Namratha Prasad & Ashita Wagh are features writers for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl