It’s that time of year again when student organizations go before Student Government (SG) to ask for money from student fees.
Over the next three months, members from the SG Activity and Service Recommendation Committee (ASRC) will review written student organization budgets requesting money for the upcoming academic year.
ASRC was established to recommend Activity and Service (A&S) fee allocation to the Activity and Service Fee Business Office (ASBO) each term. Soon after the start of the spring semester, organizations outline what funding would do for them individually.
Each organization appoints a financial officer who serves as the only individual able to access the budget. The officer must be a USF student and a registered board member within that organization. Additionally, A&S-funded organizations cannot charge any dues or fees to be part of the organization.
Sea Marshall-Barley, current graduate student and financial officer for the Robert R. Green International City/County Management Association student chapter at USF, is newly appointed and learning the process.
Up for the organization’s first year of re-eligibility, Marshall-Barley said everything has been running well thus far.
“I think communication has been pretty good,” Marshall-Barley said. “Everyone is easy to reach and it’s very clear when everything is due.”
With more and more student organizations updating their memberships or re-starting past groups, some must fall in line with a system that has run like clockwork for years.
ASRC is comprised of students, including eight senators and a senate committee on appropriations chair, chief financial officer, senate president, student body president, representatives from ASBO and a representative from Student Government Advising, Training & Operations (SGATO).
Gary Manka serves as SGATO director, working hand-in-hand with the ASBO to ensure Student Government is following established statutes.
“Student organizations need to realize there’s a hierarchy of law in the state of Florida within student governments that they must follow in order to receive allocated funds,” said Manka. “As long as they follow the law then there’s no reason they shouldn’t get funding.”
The A&S fee was approved to an increased $12.08 per credit hour, and a flat fee of $7, for every student belonging to the Tampa campus each term. With nearly 42,000 students enrolled this academic year fitting that criterion, the total amount made from the A&S fee was estimated at $14.6 million last year.
The increase will fund the replacement of gym equipment in the campus recreation center, a new gym on the USF Health portion of campus and will cover state-mandated salary increases for departments such as the Center for Student Involvement and the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.
This spring, USF allocated over $14.6 million in funds from the A&S fee with nearly $750,000 being used on student organizations. Student Affairs departments, including the Marshall Student Center, Campus Recreation, Student Life Tower, Student Government branches, Computer Services, SAFE Team and Bulls Radio are all almost completely funded through the A&S fee. In addition to these offices, more than 200 student organizations on campus must split the remaining money.
With so many different groups needing various itineraries, the average amount request is roughly $2,500.
To make the budget process easier, each senator is given roughly 20 organizations they must follow up with.
Abdool Aziz, ASRC chair and Senate president pro tempore, said he knows that the process can seem overwhelming to new groups looking to get off the ground.
“Our main goal is to get as many organizations funded as possible,” Aziz said. “The sooner their budgets are turned in, the better chance we all have of the process going smoothly.”
To receive A&S funds, ASBO guidelines must be met for an organization to be eligible. One major stipulation is that A&S-funded student organization events must be open to all USF students and held on the USF Tampa campus, such as Riverfront Park or the location of a USF athletic event.
Juan Castano serves as the financial officer for Beef Studs, a student organization that aims to support all USF athletics by applying green and gold body paint and cheering on the teams. Castano has been the financial officer for almost a full year and said the process is a lot easier than some organizations might think.
“It was almost effortless to submit the budget as the guidelines were all set out and broken down, making the whole process a breeze,” he said
Beef Studs received almost $4,000 for this academic year and have used almost $2,500. The money the group receives is used to order necessary paint supplies, shirts and other materials to help with their game day activities.
The remaining funds will be used for the upcoming baseball and softball seasons, as well as the end of basketball.
“This money will help us cater to any student willing to paint up and help support USF, because these materials can get pretty expensive otherwise,” Castano said.
“It’s not too difficult to establish an initial budget,” Castano said. “Our needs mostly stay the same each year, so only minor changes are made each time. ASRC only requested one or two small changes last year so I don’t expect things to be too different when they start reviewing this time around.”
From an organization’s perspective, Beef Studs and Castano are confident in the current budget regulations and how the process is carried out.
The Senate is not obligated to fully fund student organizations, however, and all student organizations are encouraged to seek outside financial support if additional funds are needed.
As outlined in the latest budget, the A&S fee will no longer cover travel costs for organizations, which must now submit a travel grant application to Student Government to see if they are eligible for additional funding.
ASRC meets every Friday in MSC 3700 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to discuss the distribution of funds.