School has only been in session for two weeks, but CU’s student government, CUSG, has already implemented some major changes to important financial legislature.
CUSG controls an overall budget of $36 million, making it the most financially powerful student government in the country. A lot of this money comes from student fees, and a lot of it goes toward the funding of student groups, as well as larger cost centers like the UMC, Wardenburg and the Rec Center.
Eric Lenser, 19, a sophomore integrated physiology major (in blue) exercises at the Student Recreation Center. Every semester $84.80 of student fees go to the Rec Center. (CU Independent/James Bradbury)
When the newly-elected Pulse candidates took office in the spring, two topics were at the forefront of their minds; changes to the Student Fee Regulations Bill and the Student Group Funding Board were finalized over the summer.
Student fee regulations
The current cost centers that receive funding from student fees are the Cultural Events Board, the Environmental Center, the GLBTQ Resource Center, KVCU (Radio 1190), Legal Services, Wardenburg Health Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the Student Organizations Finance Office, Off-Campus Housing, Recreation Services, the Student Outreach and Retention Center for Equity, the Volunteer Resource Center, the UMC (which includes Program Council and NightRide) and CUSG Proper (which includes the Student Group Funding Board and the Distinguished Speaker’s Board).
Every year, these cost centers go through a process with CUSG’s legislative council that determines the overall budget for each organization. Funds can be requested from subsections of CUSG like the Arts and Sciences, Student Government and Representative Council. Check out last year’s budgets here and here.
According to Legislative Council President Colin Sorensen, the first change to student fee regulations is that cost centers can now request funds from three of these sources, instead of two like previous years. And while this gives the centers more opportunity for funding, they will have to be even more responsible with their money because of a second change.
To keep them in check, “a violation tier system has been implemented to ensure that [the cost centers] are held accountable, specifically for their financial expenditures and their use of student fee money,” Sorensen said.
The punishments for violations – spending more student fee money than is allocated for a certain purpose – range from reimbursing that money to having accounts frozen and all funding denied for the year.
For each semester, half of $712.78 fees from every full-time CU student (or $712.78 per school year) goes to the major cost centers, and in return, the students receive access to services available through the Rec Center, the UMC, etc. But when there are meetings to be held and events to be had, the cost centers often request more money.
As legislative council president, Sorenson must award the deserving requests and see through the ones without merit.
“I wish I could tell you exactly where students want their student fees to go,” Sorensen said. “I can’t. Where I want my fees to go is different than where another person wants their fees to go. That’s why we have 18 seats on legislative council, so that students from all across campus can have their voices represented and heard.”
Student Group Funding Board
CUSG provides money to its Student Group Funding Board (SGFB), which allocates funds to the smaller, student-run groups on campus—not the major cost centers.
SGFB Chair Ellie Roberts said the approach this semester is to “make sure no student group gets left in the dust.”
“In previous years, SGFB met for two weekends in the springtime,” Roberts said. “If a student group was unfortunate enough to not get a spot [to request funds] on those two weekends, they were out of luck.”
The 2012-2013 budgets for student groups were decided last school year. Now, hearings for 2013-2014 will be conducted every two weeks, an enormous increase in chances for the student groups on campus to approach SGFB and ask for money to travel and host events.
These groups can request up to $15,000, depending on their histories with SGFB. The ones that actually receive that amount of money are referred to as “Level Three” groups, defined as “a student group that is in good standing from SGFB…and has met or exceeded group standards rules for three or more executive years.”
Another big change is the funding of hourly payroll for students within these groups.
Effective the 2013-2014 school year, up to 10 percent of a group’s total operational budget can be set aside for payroll. The payments must go to students, and the group has to issue a report explaining why a payroll is deserved or necessary. Only Level Three groups can apply.
“Many student group leaders devote a large amount of time to actually overseeing and running their group,” Roberts said. “They’re putting in just as much hard work and time as they would to any other paying job.”
Time will tell if these changes prove to be positive – spring is budget season, but Sorensen said he is optimistic.
“It’s my hope that we utilize cost-benefit analysis in decisions surrounding student fees,” Sorensen said. “What is actually a useful expense, versus what isn’t.”
In the past, cost centers and student groups alike have been left unhappy with their allocated amounts, and, according to Sorensen, giving them what they want is often in opposition to decreasing the amount of fees students pay every year.
“We want to have responsible spending and make sensible cuts,” Sorensen said.
Lauren Pigott, a 19-year-old sophomore journalism major, wants CUSG to remember who matters the most in all of this.
“They should talk to a wide variety of students before any big, or even small, decisions,” Pigott said.
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Annie Melton at Anne.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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