SGA President Haefner champions SSA redistribution

The Student Success Act proposal that has been approved unanimously by the committee and presented to the SGA Senate gets back to the original focus of the Student Success Act. When this Act was put into place, it was a time when the State government was looking at cutting funding in universities. The student leaders of that time along with administration sat down to find a way that campus services would not vanish. The original “Save Our School” Act was to fund Recreation Services, Center for Academic Support, Student Success and Advising, Student Life and Leadership, and Career Services. Any excess money would be held back into a holding account in case of a decrease in enrollment. (I took these directly from the signed bill on April 2, 2012). The fee was passed by the Board of Governors and put into place, but then the budget cuts did not occur. There was nothing written in to the proposal to discuss what would occur with the funds if the budget cuts did not occur. Over the next four years, the funds were appropriated based on many different ways. This year’s proposal that the committee has approved will fund the student labor and operating budgets of many different “student services” for at least the next three years. It will then be up to be reviewed Fall 2019. The departments benefitting from this fund will be the Center for Academic Support, Student Success, Recreation Services, Esry Health Center, Center for Multicultural Education, Center for Student Involvement, International Student Services, and Career Services, again conforming to the original services that were to be saved under the original act. Missouri Western will still cover the Personnel, Fringe Benefits, and Travel budgets of the departments that were listed above. The SSA funds will also fund student tickets at all MWSU Theatre productions and $1 per student per fiscal year will be appropriated towards the Student Capital Fund. The Student Capital Fund will be used to fund things the students want and can be accumulated over many years. This proposal removes the “Us vs. Them,” “students vs. administration” mentality that has become a focus of the Student Success Act. Now we are back to working for the same goal, to help fund student services.

Departments uncertain about SSA increase

The proposed SSA budget would bring raises to many Student and Academic Affairs departments, but until the plan goes through, there are no definite plans for how to use that money. The SSA proposal would cover the student labor and operational costs associated with the departments, but would also provide raises to those departments. No department requested the increased funding they would receive under the SSA allocation. They also were not consulted about the amount they were to be allocated either until after the budgeting process was completed. The amount of increased funding to the different student and academics affairs departments varies from department to department. For instance, Esry would receive a $6,000 boost to its budget and Recreational Services would see a $7,000 increase. The Center for Student Involvement would receive a $25,040 raise under the proposal, while the Center for Multicultural Education would receive a $23,300 increase. Assistant Dean of Student Development Isaiah Collier said CSI would probably use the extra money for student events. “Hypothetically, if it did go through and the president did sign off on it, one of the many things that I would love to do is increase leadership programs here, but also have more programs that students can socialize to further engage in the Missouri Western experience,” Collier said. CME Coordinator Latoya Fitzpatrick said that her department has no definitive plans for the increase as of yet. “I haven’t really planned out what I’m going to use that money for until I know for sure that it’s solid,” Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick said CME would most likely use the funds to bring in speakers. Director of the Career Development Center Kay-lynne Taylor said her department is underfunded and the money would benefit from the department’s $32,000 raise. “We have so many, many different programs that we don’t have anymore because we are so short funded,” Taylor said. “We get a budget that is from the university that is from institutional dollars anyway. So if there is any additional [dollars], that would be great and that would go toward our students.” Until the SSA proposal is approved by SGA and signed by the university president and that funding is secured, many of the departments who would utilize the additional funds will likely have no concrete plans on how to spend it.

SGA considers long-term changes to SSA

SGA is considering a proposal for the Student Success Act that would lock in an estimated $1.5 million in SSA allocations over the next three years to fund student services and save Missouri Western money in the process. The SSA budget proposal, proposed by SGA President Ida Haefner, was first read at April 11's SGA meeting after it passed the SSA fee committee unanimously a week earlier. The bill would largely spend around $300,000 of the total estimated $525,000 of student fee money collected each year by providing an increase to each of the departments specified. Around $200,000 of the remaining SSA fee money, under this proposal, would be used to save Western money by having SSA money cover the student labor and operational costs of facilities like Esry Health Center, Center for Student Involvement, Center for Multicultural Engagement and the Center for Academic Support, along with several others, which the university is currently paying for. The university, however, would still be paying for the personnel, fringe benefits and travel expenses associated with the facilities that would be receiving money from this new proposal. The university's savings is a two step process.  The new SSA budget would help Missouri Western free up an estimated $195,560 by covering some student services expenses and that money would be put back into the university’s operational budget. Meanwhile, an additional $4,440 of collected SSA fee money would be given to the university in order to make their savings an even $200,000. That $4,440 would be spent by the university “as it sees fit,” according to the official language of the SSA bill. Haefner said that this money would go toward the operational costs of the university. “With a budget of $525,000, in order to increase the ‘savings’ of the university, $4440 will then go from the [SSA] budget to make it an even $200,000 that the university can do what they want with,” Haefner said. “It will be absorbed into their operational cost, so it’ll be distributed across the operational board. Where that might go is pennies here and there. You can’t really put down where this money is going because it’s going across a wide variety of things most likely.” Not everyone at the SGA meeting agreed with the proposal, however. In an open discussion of the proposal a week earlier, several senators expressed concerns about the budget and of its allocations. Executive Vice President Brad Stanton was one of those who did not support the proposal. “First off, I don’t I feel like it’s student’s job to save the administration $200,000 like what’s happening under SSA,” Stanton said. “This gives a raise to Student Affairs, but it gives a raise to Student Affairs on the backs of the students. This isn’t the university saying we support Student Affairs more; this is students have to spend more of their money to give Student Affairs departments more money and I don’t think that that’s fair.” Not only does the proposal free up money from the university’s budget, but it also frees up money in the SGA budget. For instance, the SSA proposal includes a $10,000 allocation to theater for student tickets, which student government currently funds. The SSA proposal also takes $1 per student per year from the fees collected to put into a capital projects fund to be accumulated and spent on various projects that are proposed over the years. This proposal would also minimize the fee allocation process that occurs annually. Under this proposal, all of the proposed SSA allocations would be set in place for three to five years. This would reduce the need for the SSA fee advisory committee to meet only a minimum of once a year, as opposed to the two meetings a semester currently required. After three to five years, the allocations would be reexamined by the committee. Additionally, any excess money collected over the years would be set aside in a reserve account that would also be reallocated after several years to account for any possible drops in enrollment. While many changes are proposed in the legislation, Haefner said that this proposal returns SSA to its original intended purpose. “Basically, what I’ve done here is what the original purpose of the Student Success Act was for,” Haefner said. “They [the original SSA proposals] were saving different departments, except they were funding their entire budget, not just the parts that I’ve lined out.” SGA President-Elect Alec Guy, who sat on the SSA committee that approved the measure, said that the proposal reflected a compromise between student needs and administrative goals. “There has to be some kind of compromise and that’s why I’m in favor of this,” Guy said, “because I think if we each dig our heels in and say we want to spend the money a certain way but then the administration doesn’t agree, then well, maybe nothing gets done and that money just sits there. I think that this is a good compromise and ultimately the students are going to be the benefactors.” The benefits of the proposal outweigh the costs, Guy said, because the money that Missouri Western saves would possibly go toward the Master Plan which would help improve buildings used by students. Additionally, the money SGA saves in not having to fund student services would be used to help fund student organizations.   A vote on the legislation by SGA is expected at the next SGA meeting on April 18.

Administration Unsure of SSA Savings too

“The administration doesn’t even know where it’s going at this point, because it’s just this sum of money. They can’t even start to think about where to put the money because it hasn’t been approved. If it’s approved, then they can start to think about where to put the money.” SGA President Ida Haefner said this in relation to the $200,000 that Missouri Western would save annually under her proposed Student Success Act proposal that takes over some of the costs associated with Student and Academic Affairs departments. Under the SSA proposal, the university’s savings would come from the student fee covering the student labor and operating costs associated with nine student-related departments to save the university $195,560. An additional $4,440 of SSA fee money would go directly to the university to save it an even $200,000. Vice President of Financial Planning Dr. Cale Fessler, who reviewed the budget after it was drafted, said that the $200,000 that gets freed up would go back into the university’s general operating budget. “These funds are provided through the university’s general operating budget, so those funds would go back to the general operating budget for the university,” Fessler said. Aside from going to the university’s operational budget, the savings have not been marked for any certain projects or expenses. “We haven’t come up with any new $200,000 a year projects to take these funds at this point of time,” Fessler said. “That’s as much a function of our budget and revenue and expense side of things right now as anything else. Certainly the operating budget savings are very helpful to us, no question, but we don’t have any specific project lined out that those would go to or any ongoing expenditure that we would be taking on.” Fessler cited health insurance increase, utilities and raises for faculty and staff as possible outlets for the saved money, but because of the nature of the operational budget, could not provide any more specifics about where exactly the saved money was going. However this money is spent, the administration is confident that it will benefit students. “Really all the dollars that the university spends, whether it be operational or auxiliary or in the residence halls or things like that, I believe are in support of students,” Fessler said. “Sometimes, when you look at the general operating budget, it may not be as direct of an impact, or easily explained as a direct impact... There are so many ways that we allocate those funds that overall, because again we are here to serve the students and keeping the educational institution operational and being able to provide an education. I think really it provides us the opportunity to operate and it’s helpful to us.” Vice President Shana Meyer who oversees SGA where the legislation was proposed expressed similar sentiments. “Everything the university does benefits the students,” Meyer said. Haefner said that her proposal returns to the original intention of the student-imposed fee and in the end benefits the students as well. “The way that I view it when we go through it is this fee was put into place to save the student services. We’re saving the student services. It’s doing what it meant to be,” Haefner said. “It wasn’t meant to be this pot of money that went to certain places on campus, like to rebuild things. It was meant to help save the leadership and development services and all that sort of thing. Now, it going there, instead of to fix a building or renovate a building, which also needs to be done, but should you’re student fees be going toward that? This is more of a thing that encompasses all students because it’s something that all students can use.”

Kellogg named Student Governor

Freshman Joseph Kellogg has been named the Student Governor for the 2016-2017 term. Kellogg will be serving as a mediator between Western’s Board of Governors and the study body, and an ex-officio to the Student Government Association.  Majoring in both Economics and Political Science, Kellogg is active in Western’s honors program, the Mo Eta chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and seasoned actor in Western Playhouse. Kellogg intends to help the university flourish through open communication and improving on-campus student engagement.  “I really care about the school and growing up in the community, I have been really involved. Once I decided I wanted to go to school here, I knew that I wanted to be involved with decision making and bettering the university for the future, and once I leave, hopefully I can leave it better than it was when I got here,” Kellogg said. Despite not having extensive experience within SGA, Kellogg is hopeful the connections he has made will give him a head start in building a strong professional relationship with the student body.  “I’ve talked to some (SGA) senators, and the newly elected President and Vice President, Connor and Alec I know pretty well, so that should be a good working relationship,” Kellogg said.