A Conversation with SGA Regarding Student Org Funding
Every February, the Student Government Association accepts budget requests from hundreds of student organizations. For the 2015-2016 academic year, 179 student organizations requested $2,019,087.02; while the university and state allocated $665,003.00 to distribute amongst the organizations for their annual budgets.
The funding comes from the Student Activity Fee, which for the 2015-2016 academic year was set by the Board of Visitors at $756.33 per semester, up 1.5% compared to 2014-2015. ODU has Virginia’s second highest student activity fee after the Virginia Military Institute (SCHEV).
I spoke with SGA’s Director of Finance, Lydia Burch, to get the inside scoop on student organization funding. Burch spearheaded the process which took place roughly from February to August of 2015.
Jason: Can you tell us more about the funding allocated to student organizations this year?
Lydia: This year, a lot more money was requested compared to last year. To try and fit $2 million into $660,000 is very difficult but that’s why we have a committee of volunteer students (mostly SGA Senators) and faculty involved in helping with the process of allocating money to all organizations.
This process happens throughout the whole summer, and can be very time consuming and at the end we do hope to please everyone; but the reality is, we can’t approve everything everyone requests. In regards to the fairness of the process- excluding the outliers – SGA, Student Activities Council (SAC), ODU Homecoming, Mace and Crown, and WODU Studios, it is fair.
Jason: Can you tell us more about your goals as Director of Finance for 2015-2016?
Lydia: My goal as director is to establish several things:
1) Maintain communication and transparency with student organizations regarding all the funding resources offered by SGA.
2) Encourage organizations to make their budget requests as detailed as possible. I would much rather obtain a budget request of 15 pages with summaries of events and price quote attachments, than having just 2 pages with the bare minimum. This is how I had my committee and myself determine how much would be allocated where. This money comes from the students so we want to make sure it is being put to unique and effective programs and conferences that will end up benefiting the student body and ODU as a whole.
3) Helping organizations through the budget process. As part of the points and standards, we do require organizations going to a budget workshop (offered in the Fall and Spring); but that only shows how to request a budget and that information can be lost. This year we had a “Budget Party” in the U-Center, where students could request a budget on behalf of their organization, with the help of the SGA Finance Committee. This was very successful and I plan on doing it for the coming budget season as well.
Jason: How does SGA determine how much to allocate to each organization? What requirements are they required to fulfill?
Lydia: There are two ‘cutting’ phases the Finance Committee goes through when reviewing budget requests.
The first stage is when SGA cuts funding that does not align with the Financial Bylaws. It is outlined and available online at MonarchLink for student organization leaders.
The second stage is when Points and Standards (also available online on MonarchLink to student organizations) are applied. Organizations receive a percentage of what the Committee recommends based on how many Points and Standards are completed. Once those are applied, they have to ensure that the amounts do not exceed how much the university has allocated from student fees to grant to organizations. If it’s over the amount, they have more to cut. This is the most difficult part due to SGA’s wariness to cut any more than they have to, although it is often considered an annual requirement.
Jason: What’s different in the process in comparison to last year?
Lydia: This year, there were less organizations that completed 100% of their points and standards and less new organizations applied for funding. In comparison to last year; SGA did not allocate as much as they wanted to, yet managed to make the best of the situation. They even cut the contingency and co-sponsorship funds to $14,000 for each so that they could grant as much as much as possible for budgets.
For a more visual representation of student organization budgets, please visit: http://www.maceandcrown.com/budgets/.