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Allocations Committee Makes Tough Cuts

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Photo credit: Dustin Keeslar

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Written by: Communicator StaffApril 23, 2014

As a college student signs that tuition check or hits the “accept” button for a student loan, they may wonder what they’re paying for. Where are their student fees actually going, and how do they benefit from the use of these fees? What does IPFW do with all that tuition money?

The simple answer is that they give it back.

Every year, IPFW takes in revenue from the fees of degree-seeking students as they enroll in classes. The total is divided up by a formula and distributed it between Athletics, IPSGA and as of this year Intramurals. A small portion is also dedicated to the upkeep of public facilities in the Gates Center. Each of these groups then distributes funds from that pool as they see fit, with the exception of Intramurals in which all funds are simply handled by the Student Life Office.

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All of the money that goes into these pools is determined purely by student fees and is not available to the university for the purpose of cuts or general operating expenses. The only way for the pools to increase is for a greater number of students to enroll or the fees associated with each credit hour to rise. Each year’s total budget is determined by the fees generated from the enrollment of the previous year.

There will be a change next year: there will also be a pool specifically for student travel as the student senate will no longer be handling the funding for it. Due to the recent history of impeachments in this and previous years, it was felt to be in the best interests of the students to separate the two. This is primarily because impeachments bring the senate to a halt, while time-sensitive travel requests are going unheard and unfunded.

“Generally speaking, we…want to respect the student government as the legitimate voice of the students,” explained Vice Chancellor McClellan. “We don’t want to control them or interfere with them, but at some point…we just had to step in and say this can’t happen anymore. We can’t shut down a core educational function while you figure out these impeachment hearings.”

The money for this pool has been taken straight from the senate’s budget for simplicity. A committee that will be comprised of both students and faculty is being created, and while details have not yet been finalized, Vice Chancellor McClellan’s office will manage it. The pool will contain $100,000, which is an approximation of what the senate usually spends on travel.

McClellan said the problem in senate was the lack of an alternative to impeachment. The only options are letting the officer go completely unpunished or halting everything for an impeachment hearing. There is no middle ground for senators to express their concerns or address issues with officers.

“Until they get this middle ground, until they have a way of not shutting down the senate, we’ll be doing travel funding,” said McClellan, indicating the change would not be permanent.

Of the various pools of student fees, the one that impacts the most students is the IPSGA Allocation. These funds are distributed each year by a specially formed Allocations Committee comprising of presidential nominees, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the vice president of finance, and a pair of staffed experts.

The IPSGA Allocation is for groups and organizations that provide services to the students, but do not receive funding from any of the academic departments. This includes the student senate, the SAB program, the executive office, etc. as well as programs like the Ambassadons or The Communicator. These groups approach the Allocations Committee requesting funding for services they’d like to provide, and the committee chooses which of those services are most beneficial to the student body and funds them as they deem appropriate.

“If you look at the people getting funding from us, it is wide and varied. I mean, we’re funding all kinds of different stuff, so you have to be open-minded and not simply get rid of an entire organization or an entire case of funding just because you may not like what they do,” said Vice President of Finance Misti Meehan. “Well, just because it doesn’t serve you doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve students as a whole.”

This year, there were 40 groups coming before the Allocations Committee to request a combined total of $1,140,502. Because of a decline in enrollment last year, all that the committee had available was $935,530, creating a difference of $204,972. For this reason, the committee went to a lot of extra effort for the sake of fairness. For example, she and the other committee members spent a good deal of time preparing for each presenter.

“I wanted to make sure, before the presenters show up, know what they’re coming to ask for because how are you going to ask a question if you don’t know what they want until they walked in?” Meehan explained.

In addition to researching each group, she made sure to involve the entire committee as much as possible. Because only quorum was required to hear a presentation and conflicting schedules made it difficult to accommodate everyone, the meetings were recorded for committee members who were absent.

“We did not do any deliberations until every single person had heard every single presentation, because I felt that was the only way to keep it fair,” Meehan said. “How are you gonna talk to something or question something if you haven’t even heard what the people came and presented?”

In order to accommodate the huge gap between available and requested funds, the committee was forced to cut the budgets for almost every organization that approached them. Hardly any of the presenting groups received the full amount they requested. A few received more money than last year, but those were mostly groups that weren’t being funded at the time.

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“Everybody had to take a cut; that was the only way to do it fairly,” Meehan said.

The SAB program in particular took a rather large hit, getting their funding cut by over $40,000. This will probably reduce the number or the size of next year’s events on campus. Other programs received less severe cuts, or simply received no funding from the IPSGA Allocation like the Welcome Back Block Party.

While the cuts may hurt, the committee spent a long time debating and compromising to decide on them. In total, the Allocations Committee spent 38 hours hearing presentations and deliberating on these budgets. All of this was volunteered time from the members, taken up in large eight hour chunks over a few days and doesn’t include the time they spent preparing before the presentations.

“Our main goal was ‘how fair can we keep this?’ and that was our main motivation for the entire duration of the committee.”

The budget has already passed the senate without alteration. After being examined by Vice Chancellor McClellan to ensure there are no legal or deeply ethical issues, it is sent to the Business Office to be formatted correctly and then to West Lafayette to be incorporated into the university planning budget document.

Story by: Sean Godfroy