Enrollment is down this year at SOU, and fewer students means less money on campus. Student Life is mostly funded by student fees, and that money goes to things like student government, clubs and staff salaries. Since less money went toward all of these things this year, Student Life now finds themselves in a difficult situation with a Fall term stat report indicating a 4 percent decrease in enrollment.
Every year Student Life must draw up a budget for the following year. Last year’s budget did not plan for a 4 percent drop in enrollment, so where does that leave the budget? ASSOU director of finance, Alexander Fitzhugh said about the issue: “Student life, I mean we don’t really have many outside revenue sources. You pay your incidental fee, and that funds student life. So if incidental fee payments are down because enrollment is down, then our money would also be down.”
Less money, same expenses
If less money is coming in, and the expenses are staying the same or increasing, how can there be enough money? The term deficit is used to describe this situation, but it can be called other things like debt, or shortcoming. Fitzhugh did not speak to whether or not the department is working with a deficit, in fact when the question was posed he refused to comment.
“Right now it’s projecting a little over $500,000,” said Director of Student Life, Jennifer Fountain. When asked about how long this problem has been in the conversation at Student Life, Fountain said, “About mid October it became pretty clear that we were going to be projecting a shortfall.”
Student Life is responsible for many of the clubs and events that students use and rely on, and those things don’t just stop because there isn’t enough money. Something has to be done to ensure that the department continues to function, even with a miscalculated budget. “It’s hard to pivot mid-year, and do things differently. And what we’ve began to do with the budget office is project how to pay back that shortfall in the next three to four years,” said Fountain. “In essence what happens is the university covers it, and then we in turn pay the university back.”
This season, the Student Fee Committee is asking clubs and organizations they fund to reduce budgets between 6.5 and 8.5 percent.
Video reported by Kayle Blackmore
How we got here
This deficit didn’t happen as the result of one miscalculated year. The debt can be traced back through previous student administrations. “The $500,000 we’re projecting includes a shortfall from the previous two years. At the end of the Fiscal Year (FY) 18 year, it was about a $162,000 shortfall,” said Fountain.
When debt is being discussed the conversation naturally goes to what can be done. Student fee committee has finally been sat to discuss the budget, and according to Fitzhugh, solutions might be hard to come by. “Generally your only options are raise student fees, cut services and programs, or some mix of the two,” he said.
According to Fountain “Had we had a reserve, a true savings account that you accumulate as you go, the reserve would absorb the dips in enrollment.” The reason something this does not exist is because students have not funded it.
One way or another, SOU students are the ones who will end up paying for it all. The only question is student whether student fess will be raised, or programs will be cut.
Students pay over $1,000 in students fees annually, assuming they take 16 credits per term.
To get involved in the student fee process, contact ASSOU.
ASSOU President Alexis Philips did not make herself available for comment.