What Students and Student Organizations Should Know About SGA
Most are probably aware by this point, but, last spring our institution--among many other public state universities in Missouri--was hit hard with new budgetary demands to meet for Fiscal Year 2018 by the state legislature and newly elected governor Eric Greitens.
Initially expecting to see a 6.5 percent reduction to balance the budget and compete with rising health care costs, institutions actually saw a 9 percent reduction to core funding from the state. State lawmakers justified the increase by expressing that the reductions would help save Missouri roughly $24 million and attempt to rectify the state’s budget bind.
That being the case, Southeast Missouri State University identified a budget need of approximately $6.1 million, including an anticipated reduction in state appropriations around $4 million, increased employee benefits costs estimated at $1.5 million, and the increased cost of scholarships and need based aid. As a result of funding gaps to fill, the Board of Regents alongside the Budget Review Committee, with the support of the Student Government Association, approved a minor tuition increase of 2.8 percent or $6.50 per credit hour. It should be noted that the approved amount is not even close to the 10 percent that could have been assessed to students by the annual percentage increase in the consumer price index. This is certainly a reason to be thankful.
Southeast continues to be a marvel institution focused on keeping affordability, student success and position retention at its forefront, however now that students have returned, the effects of the budget cuts are certainly visible.
Though providing funding for eligible and registered student organizations is something the Student Government Association often does, it definitely isn’t all we do and it has been the goal of many SGA administrations over the years to make that apparent to the student body.
In addition to funding, we also make it our mission to discuss change and work though challenges alongside administration for the betterment of student life on campus, which is a time-consuming and often unrequited task. (Did you know last year SGA redirected $75,000 in funds to help off-set the tuition increase and reduce the monetary impact on students? Did you know SGA funds the following accounts: Club Sports, SAC, Homecoming, Undergraduate Research, W.I.N.G.S. and Graduate Fee Reimbursement?) We are humbled by so many passionate students eager to take an interest in our organization that are committed to making a difference in some capacity on campus and we never get tired of their enthusiasm. We are chocked full of change agents and have the pleasure of meeting change agents on campus every day that strive to further their personal and professional goals.
The Student Government Association exists as an operational entity solely because of a percentage of funds we receive from student tuition (student activity fees and student special events fees), and we make it a priority to discuss and decide in senate and exec how our students get their dollars back in the form of accessible, beneficial and meaningful activities and engagements (i.e. conferences, programs, competitions, events, cultural showcases…).
The Student Government Association has two major accounts tied to the funds it receives, one being the $34,000 Discretionary Account and the other being the $30,000 Student Organizations Account. The Discretionary Account has no specific by-law guidelines identifying what merits the funding in that account, aside from what the majority of the executive board deems suitable, however decisions are somewhat influenced by verbiage in the Student Organizations Account Funding Guidelines by-law 409.03.01. Specifically, “Student Government funding is to supplement, not fully support an organization’s budget,” if support it at all. The Student Organization Account has many policies and guidelines set forth in by-laws 409.03.01 and 409.03.02 that serve as a way to benchmark and monitor how student organizations can potentially access up to 10 percent of the funding in that account. Funding requests that go through that account are handled by the Funding Board comprised of the SGA Treasurer, a minimum of three Senators and a minimum of two at-large student members, alongside the SGA Accountant.
In previous years, funding was, at times, generously granted to organizations that requested it, and SGA dipped into money in its Carry Forward Account to compensate for requests when Discretionary ran out, often times giving others the unfortunate and false perception that our organization was a ‘cash cow.’ This year, as a result of the reallocation of funds and expense of beneficial, yet large line items like SELink, the Involvement Ambassador Program and the Student Research Initiative, we cannot continue to dive into our Carry Forward. Looking ahead at the succession plan of our organization, if we continue to implement old practices, SGA will not have the means to operate optimally and will likely have to consider, as a group, recommending a student fee raise to provide ongoing funding services or cut funding from other established accounts. Ideally, it is in our best interest to avoid those scenarios if it can be helped, but we need you, as student leaders, to understand where we are coming from.
This year, should your organization come to SGA to request funding, it is in your best interest, for sake of your funding request being considered, to reflect the purpose of your event, put greater effort into fundraising, look for alternative means of getting costs down and think about how your request will benefit the students on our campus, aside from just your organization. Should you be planning an event that involves the Cape Girardeau community, especially one that involves food, prizes, and giveaways, there is a greater responsibility on you. As much as we think community events are great for integration and communal immersion, in years past, items were without cost to the community members at a cost to the student fees paying for them, often times with attendance of community members radically outweighing the student attendees. Last year after auditing several funded events, we realized this was increasingly the case and quite concerning. Hindsight and self-reflexiveness have made us cognizant and we anticipate being better prepared to work through funding requests with you, operating with a tighter budget.
In conclusion, know that SGA continues to support the endeavors and dreams of our registered student organizations that seek assistance from us and invite them to engage in responsive dialogue with us for further clarification and insight should they need it! We are open to conversation and look forward to working with you this year.
For more information on our funding process please feel free to refer to: http://www.semo.edu/studentgov/funding-guidelines.html
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