Two years after it was allocated, the McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC) continues to hold $1.1 million in student money, and both the McMaster Students Union (MSU) and the University, along with the part-time students association (MAPS), are looking for a way to spend it.
The money came from excess student fees collected by the MSU in 2010-11, which were collected to pay for the remaining portion on a loan from the University to fund the MUSC’s construction ten years ago.
The money will either go toward a new capital project to improve the Student Centre or toward discounting occupancy fees of its resident businesses and services.
The decision of how the funds will be spent now sits with the MUSC Board of Management, which includes representatives from the MSU, the University and MAPS.
John McGowan, who is the general manager of the MSU, explained that details on how, exactly, the money will be spent have not yet been worked out.
The money was not originally earmarked for projects of a certain kind.
“In all scenarios, it will help benefit undergraduate students,” he said, given that a reduction in occupancy costs for MSU services would mean more funding for other areas, and that a capital project would, presumably, benefit at least some students.
The issue began in 1987 when the MSU held a student referendum about the construction of a student centre. As a result, they started to collect a yearly amount from students to finance their portion of the Student Centre. In order to pay for their share, the MSU borrowed money from the University, to be paid back over a number of years.
MUSC was completed in 2002. However, the final loan payment from the MSU to the University didn’t occur until April of 2011.
“Leading up year of the retirement of the capital debt on the student centre, there was a lot of discussion between the University and the MSU on exactly what was outstanding,” said McGowan.
“The project had been going on for an extended period of time and the many stakeholders had changed. When sorting out the remaining balance, there were a couple of discrepancies that all parties needed to clarify regarding contributions to the student centre versus loans for the student centre.”
Because the discrepancies could not be sorted out until after fees were to be set early in 2010 for the following school year, the MSU has a decision to make. Should it collect only what it thought the remaining balance on the loan was, or collect the same amount as the previous year, increased with inflation, to cover their bases?
They opted for the latter. When the dust settled and the University could not produce proof that the MSU owed more than it thought it owed, it turned out that the MSU had collected roughly $1.13 million more than was required.
As per an agreement between the University and MSU, which was clarified when the final year’s fee was set, that surplus was transferred to the MUSC, which has a separate administrative body that is jointly managed by the MSU and University.
“That’s full-time undergraduate money that students said they wanted to spend on the MUSC,” explained McGowan about the money sent to MUSC.