Student Services Amenities Fee: Student Life, Student Run

Save the Student Services Amenities Fee

Campus culture; it’s great, isn’t it? All those clubs you see at O’week, and the funding that FUSA, your student association, provides them to host numerous events? That comes from SSAF. The amazing O’week we all get to enjoy is funded from SSAF. In academic or financial trouble? See the fantastic staff at Student Assist at FUSA. They are funded through SSAF. Facing legal trouble? See Flinders Legal Advice Clinic, funded by SSAF. Feeling ill, physically or mentally? Health, Counseling and Disability is there to help, funded by SSAF. This lovely publication you are reading? Thanks, SSAF!

So far, SSAF is sounding pretty awesome, huh? But what exactly is SSAF?

If you’re a student, you have to pay SSAF. The maximum a full-time student will pay is $290 for the year. It’s not a bad price for all the services you get provided because of it. Plus, you can defer it thanks to SA-HELP, which is like HECS-HELP, but your SSAF deferment will pale in comparison to your rising student debt.

SSAF stands for Student Services Amenities Fee. A short article will not do the long history of student services and their funding justice, but the bottom line is that without SSAF, these services and events would not happen.

Unfortunately, many students are unaware of SSAF and what it does, which included myself until recently. FUSA recently conducted a survey which showed that 81% of students knew of SSAF, yet only 33% were aware of the services and amenities it provides. This is the failure of the university and FUSA to have the conversation with students and let them know of the valuable services SSAF allows. I hope that this article is the beginning of a conversation lead by FUSA, your democratic student representatives. If we don’t have these conversations, others will speak for us, like the federal government.

The federal government has shown it is no friend of students, with its continued cuts to social services, and its now ‘shelved’ fee deregulation proposals. These proposals could leave students paying over $100,000 for their degrees and still paying back their debt well into their old age.

The concern of many is that the government will now go after SSAF and try to abolish it. The last time the federal government tampered with funding like this was under the Howard government; they removed it and campus culture died. You only have to ask anyone that went to Flinders from 2006-2010 to know that the campus was often barren. Empire Times died, as did the Student Union and its services and events. They were replaced with organisations run by university employees and corporations, not the students, and they provided poor services often lacking student input and focus. Many students I know were pretty unhappy with the old Cooper’s Bar and how it was run, particularly with opening hours and trying to work with management. I think that’s what happens when you do not have student involvement or consultation.

Conservative members of the Senate who hate SSAF purely on ideological grounds have tried to attack SSAF last year, proposing it becomes voluntary on a per-university basis. This of course would be disastrous as we have seen what campuses look like without funding, and that is an unfriendly, empty place that students do not want to be at.

So, next time someone talks about SSAF, remember it as the fee that supports students. The recent FUSA survey showed that students want the SSAF to support the services it already supports, particularly Health, Counseling and Disability, and the financial and academic advocacy support, offered by FUSA.

Without SSAF, students will undoubtedly be worse off. We want Flinders to have the best campus culture and this can only be done with funding to clubs and events for all students throughout the year. We also want students to be supported as well as they can be, in all aspects of their lives, whether personal or university related. This is achieved through SSAF and those that want to remove it want to remove these services from you. You don’t want that, do you?

Words by Jack Harrison, originally published in Empire Times Volume 43, Issue 1.