If you’re new to the UT Micro Farm, you may wonder how it is paid for. While largely maintained through volunteer work, start-up supplies and student leadership positions require funding.
This is where UT comes in. Back in 2009-2010, university students advocated for a self-imposed “Campus Green Fee,” which would add $5 to every student’s tuition each semester for 5 years. Fees like this one were already enabled by state legislation, leaving the choice of whether to have a fee up to individual institutions and their governing bodies. Our student referendum was passed by 71% of the voting student body in 2010 and approved by our Board of Regents soon after, and the first fee was collected for Fall 2011. The money is allocated on an annual basis to student-initiated projects aimed at promoting environmental sustainability and education. The Green Fee movement at UT is following leadership which began at the University of Kansas in the 1990s, and has spread to dozens of colleges all across the country, with fees ranging from $1 to $40 per semester.
The money is distributed by a 9 person Green Fee Committee, comprised of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, whose primary duty is to review proposals for projects each year. Each project must fulfill several requirements, and the committee is looking for ideas that address environmental services efforts on campus. A total of 26 projects and 5 research grants are being funded in 2013-2014, with budgets ranging from $1,000 to over $50,000. The UT Micro Farm has been allocated $15,000 this year from the Green Fee and has been guaranteed the same amount for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.
The Green Fee is set to expire in spring 2016, but if the UT student body appreciates its campus-wide and broader impact, and campaigns to replace it, it may be available to the next generation of Longhorns. The first step is an effort to place a new student referendum on the elections ballot for spring 2015. If you are interested in learning more about Green Fee, the sponsored projects in which you can be involved, or how to propose your own idea, see the committee’s web site here.