Another school year has begun, which means new classes, new friends and, above all else, new opportunities. If you didn’t like the way last year went, felt like something was missing from your college experience or you’re just up for a new adventure, the new school year provides you with just the opportunity to change your experience for the better. And now, during the early weeks of the semester, is the absolute best time to make those changes. Commit yourself to trying new things. Talk to people who you’ve never talked to before. Make new friends. Explore the Saint Joseph community and see what’s out there (plus, there are discounts for MWSU students out there, folks). Also, dedicate yourself to getting involved. There are plenty of ways for you to do that. One solution is to join a club or two on campus. From student government, to fraternities and sororities, to religious, political, hobby-related, or just social clubs, there is a place for you to get involved, make new friends and have an impact on your college community. Furthermore, this November provides a great opportunity to get involved on a larger scale with your community with one of the most important elections of your lifetime. Talk about the issues surrounding this election with your friends and family. Watch the news and upcoming presidential debates. Get informed and when the time comes, vote. Lastly, make the most of your time here. College is exciting, eye-opening experience. Each year has the possibility to be something more than the year before it. So, don’t just sit around and let this school year or those opportunities pass you by. Grab ahold of them, hold on tight, and have some adventures along on the way. You owe it to yourself and your community to do so.
Higher education is an investment. As students, it’s an investment in ourselves. It’s also an investment in the future. While investing in college, a lot of the financial burden gets placed on the backs of students, shackling them with debt that will take years and even decades to pay off. With this in mind, it’s refreshing to see the state making some investments in higher education. As Missouri House Bill 2003 sits on the Governor Nixon’s desk, universities, colleges and students across Missouri are a signature away from receiving some much-needed investment. What HB 2003 does is increase state appropriations to higher education institutions by four percent next year. That may not sound like a lot, but in higher education, every dollar matters. It’s also important to keep in mind what we could have gotten in terms of an increase: two percent. The original House Bill proposed that increase to universities and colleges as just enough to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, the Senate version of the appropriations bill called for a six percent increase. While six percent would have been great, the four percent shows a willingness to reach a compromise on higher education funding and an effort by the state to invest in higher education. Additionally, while universities across the state directly benefit under this proposal, so do students. Along with allocating appropriations, the HB 2003 also puts in place a tuition freeze for the next academic year. This means Missouri Western students will continue to pay the third-lowest tuition in the state at $197.79 per credit hour. As everything seems to be getting more and more expensive, the fact that the already high price of college is staying the same for the next year is a pleasant surprise. Really, we’re lucky. As other states, including our neighbor Kansas, struggle to fund higher education and even actively cut funding, it’s nice to see that our state legislature is willing to work together to help out both higher education institutions and the students they serve. While there may have differences at the beginning, it’s good that a compromise could be reached that benefits everyone. As the academic year comes to a close in Missouri, the signing of HB2003 would be a great way to end the year. And with the tuition freeze, it would be an even better way to start off next year for students as well.
These are some pages that I laid out and designed for the Griffon News. The first one is a Valentine’s Day-themed page about online dating. The second is one an opinions page that I laid out at the time of the 2016 Missouri Presidential Primary. We at the Griffon News stand by our reporting of the SSA proposal in last week’s issue. We asked some tough questions and explored different aspects of the proposal. In the end, we wereen’t satisfied with the answers we received and felt that the SSA proposal did not benefit students in a clear and demonstrative way. We did our jobs. It’s okay to disagree with us. It happens. SGA did just that on Monday by passing the proposal 17-0-1. Maybe the money will be used in a way to benefit students. Who knows? And that’s the problem. You should check to find out where this money is going and how it is being spent. You should track it down and hold those accountable who spend. The first step is to find out where student money is going. Find out where the money is going. Follow the money. The Griffon News will do its best to figure it out as well, but This means that over the next three years, $1.5 million will be allocated without student approval. Let’s keep in mind Student Success Act funds have now been allocated for the next three years. While the 3-year, $1.5 million proposal may have been passed SGA by a 17-0-1 vote, now comes the hard part: making sure that student money is used for students. While it may be easy to forget about that money as just a matter of fact now that the bill has passed, there must still be oversight. Senators, you have the responsibility to ensure that SSA funds are used wisely and those who spend them are held accountable. As stewards of the student voice and by extension, SSA money, SGA has the responsibility to figure out where student money is going. Requesting the budgets and expenses of the departments now covered by SSA is an important first step to encourage transparency. As the ones giving these departments these additional funds, SGA has the right to request that information. SGA’s Financial Oversight Committee does that when student organizations request money, so departments should be held to the same standards. SGA did not request how the money would be spent before giving out the money, but SGA can still do that in the future and ensure that student money is used for students. And SGA must do this. Without providing this sort of oversight, SGA will have no idea how the student money they gave away is being spent. Another step that SGA must take is finding out where the money that the SSA proposal saves the university is going. As student fees covers $195,560 in department expenses that were being covered by the university, it would to know where that money is going. In discussions about the recent SSA proposal it was argued that the saved money would go to benefit students. However, as that money is actually placed into the operational budget, it would be interesting to see where that money is really going. This may prove very difficult since the $195,560 in university savings will end up being swallowed by the massive operational budget and nearly impossible to trace. With help from the administration, maybe this could be figured out. Either way, students deserve to know. These two steps will enhance transparency and accountability for SSA funds. As SSA is reviewed annually and may be revised after three years, the information gathered now and over the next few years will be make-or-break for this SSA proposal.
The Student Government Association will vote Monday on the most important legislation they have had in over three years: a proposal that would disperse $1.5 million in student fee money to the majority of student services departments on campus. More than $900,000 of the money will be given to departments, with no current plan for what the departments will do with the additional funding, and $600,000 will be going into the general operating budget of the university. Senators: as representatives of the student body, you have the obligation to act as good stewards of student money. Pulling a $1.5 million check from the pocket of the student body violates this duty, as there are no plans for where the money will go. This legislation strips students of the voice they were uniquely provided in the original Student Success Act. This legislation was drafted with little research about where the funds should go, and instead arbitrarily gives multiple thousands to services that didn’t even request it, and currently have no plans for its use. This legislation literally gives $4,440 directly to the university in actually check form to be used “as the university sees fit.” Ultimately, this legislation provides no accountability mechanisms for the money being given to the departments or to the administration. For all these reasons, you have a duty to vote no. Until there is further information collected, specifically a detailed plan as to what additional funds will go toward, and widespread student input on what the students feel is best, it is unethical and reckless for the Senate to pass this legislation. Avoid the unnecessary feeling of immediacy surrounding this bill and do everything in your power to ensure that you are doing what is truly best for the student body. Do not let your legacy be a rash decision that ignored the best interest of students. Students: your voice was already taken away four years ago when 15 students took it upon themselves to speak on behalf of students, without consulting them after publically promising that their input would be widely heard. This current proposal takes away even more voice from students. If this bill is passed, not even the senators who approved it will have a say in where the money goes. Do not allow SGA to vote your opinion out of existence for a second time. Call, text, FaceBook message your senators. Go to Monday’s SGA meeting in Blum 220 at 5:30 p.m., and make your thoughts heard. Tell them that you still deserve a voice in where $1.5 million of your own money should go. Don’t let them strip you of that right again. Perhaps, if students, student services departments and SGA can all work together to achieve a mutually beneficial provision for SSA, then senators can enact that plan. But that time is not now. The legacy of SSA is already a controversial and notorious one. This is the last time we can rewrite it for the better.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill visited Missouri Western on Tuesday, March 22. Didn’t know that? Well, you’re not alone. The vast majority of students at Western didn’t know that the Senator from Missouri came to their campus to discuss student loan debt. The event was pretty low-key, without any real publicity. The round table discussion consisted only of a couple students, a few staff members and members from local schools. This was, at the end of the day, a very small event with a very big name headlining it. But it didn’t need to be. Student debt is not a problem only shared by a handful of students. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, 71 percent of graduates from four-year colleges had student loan debt. For Missouri students, college usually leaves them with $25,000 in debt. With this sort of important topic being discussed, why weren’t students told about this? Why weren’t students given the chance to be a part of this conversation? This isn’t an isolated incident either. Last year, McCaskill visited MWSU and only met with SGA members. No time was given for other students to hear McCaskill or to be heard by her. Now, it’s not every day that a U.S. Senator comes to Missouri Western. So, why the secrecy? Why can’t students meet and talk with their Senator? Why aren’t they even told about such events? Whether it be a failure on the part of Missouri Western or Sen. McCaskill’s office to communicate the Senator’s appearance on campus, this shouldn’t be happening. Students should be informed. After all, people need to be able to meet with their representatives. More importantly, however, representatives need to meet with the people they represent. Denying access or simply concealing access to such events is wrong. This needs to be fixed to allow more student engagement in the future with any of our elected officials.