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Student orgs see gains in $14.6M budget

In this year’s annual A&S budget, student organizations came out on top in a $14.6 million appropriations bill that included across-the-board budget cuts. 

Tuesday night, the Student Government (SG) Senate unanimously approved the 2015-16 Activity and Service (A&S) allocation totaling $14,607,348. While this overall budget is almost $60,000 less than the 2014-15 allocation, student organizations collectively saw more than $100,000 in increased funding. 

According to Abdool Aziz, chair of the SG A&S Recommendation Committee (ASRC) and SG Senate president, more student organizations than ever requested funding this year — 276 compared to roughly 240 last year. 

Though the Sports Clubs Council saw a reduction from a previous $45,236 to this year’s $37,524 allocation, sports clubs received an increase of $13,800 and student organizations from the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine received $8,220 more. The total for other student organizations increased from $387,721 to $504,308 this year. 

In total, student organizations received $877,852 in funding. Last year, organizations received only $746,957. 

Meanwhile, the final counts for student programs and services, SG and SG’s interim accounts all received reduced funding. 

Two of the line items that received a complete budget cut were the Dean of Students Office and Career Services. Though these entities received $74,704 and $165,042, respectively, in A&S funding last year, they will no longer be supplemented by the student fee, but will rather rely more heavily on educational and general revenue (E&G) funding from the state. A&S funding, on the other hand, comes from fees that students pay each semester, including a $7 flat fee and a $12.08 per credit hour fee.

Aziz said this change in funding is not a change in programming, but a realignment of structure. While Career Services will continue to be under Student Affairs, money will come mainly in the form of E&G funding as the university is expected to receive more from state performance-based funding, which looks at metrics such as the percent of graduates who gain employment or continue their education upon graduation and the average wages of those employed graduates.

The cut to the dean’s office is part of an initiative to get funding for deans away from student A&S fees, Aziz said. The dean of students will now be under the Center for Student Involvement (CSI).

Both CSI and the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) received increased funding under the newly approved allocation. 

In an effort to restructure and redefine some of the services each offers, CSI’s funding increased from $1,691,499 to $1,743,186 and the office will focus more on programming for student events. Similarly, CLCE’s funding rose from $490,621 to $618,672, which Aziz said will aid CLCE’s increased role in coordinating student organizations next year.

According to Aziz, ASRC tried to align its funding recommendations with the Global Citizens Project, which is USF’s campus-wide initiative to prepare students in a global society. In addition to funding more student organizations that have multicultural and global themes, Aziz said ASRC added roughly $50,000 to the CSI budget to create the Global Conversation Series, a lecture series with the focus of bringing more internationally recognized speakers to campus.

SG itself saw overall budget cuts, with items such as the Homecoming Grant, EXPO Grant, New Tradition Grant, SAFE Team and the Interim Funding account all receiving reduced funding.

ASRC voting member and SG senator Melisa Dincer said many of the cuts to SG accounts was the result of the committee working since mid-October to look over accounts “line by line and penny by penny” to ensure efficiency.

She said accounts such as the Interim Funding, Special Projects and SAFE Team did not fully spend their funding, so the committee recommended reduced funding. Additionally, Aziz said SAFE Team received reduced funding because the incorporation of the TapRide smartphone app helps coordinate employees and thus means less employees are needed for oversight.

“It’s important for students to research where their money is going,” Dincer said. “Students have to want to benefit from the university … it’s important for them to utilize their resources.”

The full $14.6 million allocation bill can be found here.