Carleton’s Alternative Spring Breaks program will look different next year, due to cuts in funding for these annual off-campus service trips from the CSA.
Concerned about the community service trips’ costs and contributions to the campus community, the CSA reduced funding for the trips from $10,366 this year to roughly $6,000 for the 2012-2013 school year.
The CSA attributed its decision to high fuel costs and high cost-per-participant.
“Budget Committee analyzed the proposal and decided that it would benefit the student body as a whole to cut down on the size and cost of the spring break trips in order to free up more money for events and projects on campus that will reach more students and will spread the impact of each dollar that students pay in to the Student Activity Fee,” CSA President Michael McClellan ’13 said in an e-mail.
Though the trips are run through the ACT Center, Alternative Spring Break trips are categorized as a student organization that gets funding from the CSA. ACT Director Laura Riehle-Merrill said that CSA has funded the trips every year in recent memory.
The Alternative SpringBreaks program originally requested $12,911 for next year’s budget, but the CSA rejected the proposal, granting no money. After two appeals, CSA awarded the spring break trip program $5966.70.
“The idea is to get the most out of these trips, both in terms of developing leadership in students, doing community service, and maximizing the reach of each dollar spent,” he said.
McClellan said that the Senate wanted to see ACT focus more of its efforts in Northfield and reduce the size of the trips in order to save money and create a more immediate impact on the local community.
“For future years, Senate and Budget Committee would like to see more local service trips available, as they can involve many more students at a much reduced cost,” he said.
Kristine Nachbor ’12, student coordinator of Alternative Spring Break programs, and Riehle-Merrill were quick to cite ACT’s commitment to local service work, which includes 35 service programs in Northfield during the school year.
“The ACT center has numerous local programs that students can participate in throughout the year,” Nachbor said in an e-mail. “We love the local community and strongly believe in supporting it.”
“I highly believe in engagement in the Northfield and local community, and am very much involved in the many programs offered here. Yet, I do think that living on an Native American reservation or going to a state with different zoning laws (that allow toxic waste sites in someone’s backyard) really can help expand our perspective to greater problems outside of the Northfield bubble,” she said.
“Traveling to different parts of the USA allows students to see the large range of issues and problems that impact each region.”
Riehle-Merrill also disputed whether keeping trips in Northfield would actually save money. “It wouldn’t be cheaper to stay in dorms [at Carleton],” she said.
She and Nachbor worried that few organizations in Northfield can accommodate 40 students—the typical number of participants on spring break trips.
The decreased funding will increase the price for participants in future trips, right now around an average of $150, and drastically decrease the amount of need-based aid available to student applicants.
Riehle-Merrill predicted that the restricted budget would affect the student composition of the trips and reduce the number of students who would be able to participate.
“I worry that it will impact the diversity of the trips,” she said, noting that the Alternative Spring Break trips attract a disproportionately large amount of low-income and international students.
“CSA’s robust funding in the past has allowed need-based aid,” Riehle-Merrill said, explaining that the restricted funding will no longer allow ACT to provide as much financial aid to interested students.
Despite the Alternative Spring Break budget reduction, ACT has two spring break trips planned for next year: one to the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation and the other a Habitat for Humanity trip to Waterloo, Iowa.