SGA held a student update and open forum discussion on Wednesday in the Student Union’s Key West Ballroom to provide UCF students the chance to learn about ongoing events and initiatives SGA officials have taken since being elected to office. SGA’s President, Cortez Whatley, and Vice President, Rachel Brill, both spoke at the meeting, along with other SGA members of the executive branch.

“Its very important students are aware of all of the services we do and how much work goes into planning all of this,” said SGA’s Public Relations Coordinator, Funlola Falade. “We’re holding this meeting because there’s a lot of misinformation out there, as well as a lot of resources for students to use that they don’t know about, and thus can’t take advantage of. We want students to know where money is going and what we’re providing for them.”

President Cortez Whatley began the meeting by addressing the 15% increase in differential tuition, a decision that has recently caused some criticism from fellow UCF students, particularly from the Student Labor Action Project. Whatley defended the decision as being made in the best interest of the student body, and that over 90 instructors would have been lost at UCF without the increase in tuition.

“The tuition spike accumulated about $13 million. Five-and-a-half of it went to financial aid, but the remainder went to study aids, instructors, tutors and other programs at UCF, liberal arts programs in particular, that would have been lost without it,” said Whatley. “Losing those instructors and programs would have been a lot more impactful to a lot more students, so that was the rational behind the decision.”

Whatley also addressed some of SGA’s accomplishments since taking office, including the advertisement of scholarships on myUCF, a partnership with the Lou Frey institute that has helped some 1,800 students register to vote, the expansion of All Knight Study expected to open at the end of the month, and the upcoming Light Up UCF, what Whatley called the only event of it’s kind in the state.

Vice President Rachel Brill spoke next, followed by other members of the executive cabinet of SGA, addressing a food recycling initiative, bus services from UCF to the Orlando International Airport, free flu shots at UCF, and lower textbook costs for students.

“We’re working with the UCF Bookstore to create a student discount day that would allow a 5-10% discount on textbooks at the start of each semester,” said SGA Director of Student Affairs, Trevor Persaud. “We’re also looking at a program called ‘CourseSmart’ for students who want to download e-books at a 40-60% discount. UCF has contracts with Barnes and Noble and the UCF Bookstore, so we don’t want to overstep our boundaries, but we really want to advocate this for students.”

Following the updates, an open forum was held, where the topic of the increased tuition rates was once again raised, this time, why a 15% raise was necessary versus only an 8% raise.

“Anything less than 15% and you would have seen dramatic changes to student life on campus, particularly education, which is the sole purpose of this institution,” said Whatley. “I can’t tell you exactly what 8% would look like, but I can tell you we’d be in a much worse place than we are now.”