SGA budget decreases by $19,500

Lashana Harney

The Student Government Association’s budget, like the university’s, is dwindling.

From last year’s budget to this year’s, SGA lost $19,500 in funding. Last year, SGA received a private donation of $15,000. This year, a private donation wasn’t made, so SGA reallocated portions of its budget to make up for the loss.

The remaining $4,500 of the $19,500 total was cut due to the university’s overall reallocation and budget cuts.

SGA Administrative Vice President Liz Koehler said students will begin to feel the impact when applying for SGA scholarships or organizational funding.

Koehler said organizational funding took the hardest hit by losing $9,000 from the previous year. This means fewer organizations will be able to apply for funding.

Without the $15,000 donation, SGA will have to give out fewer scholarships.

Koehler said she decided to reallocate $4,000 from organizational aid funds and funnel the money back into scholarships.

“It sucks because either way, it is taking away from somewhere,” Koehler said. “We can only do so much.”

The funds for Academic Affairs scholarships and grants decreased by $5,800 going from $26,000 the previous year to $20,200 this year. For the 2015-2016 year, the Academic Affairs committee will be able to provide 46 total study abroad scholarships for $300 each, $1,200 total for study away scholarships and 20 scholar development grants at $250 each.

Barrett Greenwell, the SGA director of Academic and Student Affairs, said advertising for the scholarships has increased, so he expects more students to apply for SGA scholarships.

“This year we have less money, and we will likely have more applicants,” Greenwell said. “So I think the scholarship process will be much more competitive this year.”

The funds for Student Affairs scholarships decreased by $5,200 going from $26,000 in the previous year to $20,200 this year. The Student Affairs committee will be able to provide 40 scholarships totaling $395 apiece. These scholarships help students fund classes for the winter and summer terms.

Greenwell said the loss in scholarship money and the rise in competitiveness may lead to deserving students being left behind.

The only area to receive an increase in funds was office supplies. Koehler said this was due to a large demand of scantrons and blue books.

WKU’s SGA budget is relatively small compared to other Kentucky universities such as the University of Louisville. For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, U of L’s SGA had a budget of $1.2 million whereas WKU’s SGA had a budget of $138,500. The $1 million difference is due in part to the drastic differences in funding. To fund U of L’s SGA, students pay a $12 fee per semester. The rest of the money is generated by the university, according to an article by the Louisville Cardinal.

However, the difference in enrollment numbers from the fall of 2014 for U of L compared to WKU is only 2,120 students. U of L had 22,298 students in the fall of 2014, and WKU had 20,178.

SGA president Jay Todd Richey said if WKU’s SGA had a larger budget—even just half of U of L’s budget—there would be a profound effect for students, including an increase in scholarship amounts and an expansion in the amount of scholarships SGA offers. A larger budget could also fund more testing materials, more vouchers and even provide more funds for WKU student groups.

SGA is currently funded by a student activities fee. This fee currently funds SGA and the Campus Activities Board. 

Richey said he doesn’t want to propose a fee to increase the SGA budget for the sake of having a larger budget; a more beneficial fee would generate money by increasing funds specifically for student use. Fees that would provide more scholarships through SGA, Richey said, are worth proposing.

“Given the current nature of higher education across many states and the United States, student loan debt is back-breaking,” Richey said. “It’s a huge deterrent for students deciding to pursue higher education … when raising a student fee, you have to weigh the costs and benefits.”

Richey said he isn’t opposed to proposing a student fee specifically for generating scholarship funds, but the fee would have to be modest, and the costs and benefits would have to be considered very carefully.

“In some instances, we don’t use all of our organizational aid money, but we do exhaust all of our scholarship money,” Richey said. “We could award more of those popular options for students.”

SGA provides a route for students to make opportunities such as winter term courses or study abroad more affordable, Richey said.

Richey said there is much he would love to see SGA do, but the funds are limited.

“We have less money, and we can’t give out as many scholarships,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to.”