Amid a 20% budget cut to student organizations, group leaders have found it harder to get their annual budgets approved by the Student Government Association (SGA). Many students are concerned the SGA has prioritized its own funding over other student organizations.
“SGA can pull money out of anywhere, but other student groups have had their budgets slashed by [the Student Activity Fee Committee] SAFC,” junior Bayley Brooks said.
Brooks, a former SGA senator and member of the School of Computer and Engineering student council, and current Vice-President of UMKC’s American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), explained how organizations like ASCE have received fractions of their requested budgets.
Upon enrollment, all undergraduate students pay an activity fee of about $6 per credit hour, up to 12 hours. That fee is used to fund student organizations and other student activities and services. The SAFC makes recommendations on how the student activity fee is allocated
“ASCE got 14% of the budget we requested,” Brooks said. “We were lucky and got more than some of the other organizations in the School of Computing and Engineering.”
ASCE received around $1,000 for its annual budget for this year. Brooks said some organizations have tried to secure funding from outside donors because of the strain on their budgets.
SGA, in contrast, received $11,064.37 from the student activity fee for its annual budget. According to a recent expense report, SGA had spent roughly $4,500 of its budget, including $3,707.10 on food, which included around $2,250 spent for a food truck at the Kangaroo Kickoff.
Money from the student activity fee also pays the stipends for certain members of SGA. $6,000 is paid to each of the four members of the executive council: the president, vice-president, internal affairs director and the comptroller. The speaker of the senate and the election director receive $900 and $500, respectively, and each of the 15 SAFC members receive a $900 stipend.
Todd Wells, director of the Office of Student Involvement, confirmed that SGA is the only student organization at UMKC that offers stipends to its members.
The money drawn from the student activity fee directed towards the SGA annual budget and SGA members totals $49,064.37, almost 10% of the fee.
With the cut to the student activity fee, some students think that the budget cuts shouldn’t only affect student organizations.
“If budget cuts are being applied to student organization funding, I think there should be cuts to stipends, too,” Brooks said.
Stipend amounts are determined by the SGA Constitution, which was revised at the start of this school year.
The group that determines how funds from the Student Activity Fee are distributed, the Student Activity Fee Committee, is also chaired by the SGA Comptroller. Some students are concerned that this could be a potential conflict of interest, as SGA’s budget is determined by the committee.
“It’s hard to be unbiased when you’re a major part of one of the organizations that need the money,” freshman Lauren Textor said. “The scales might end up tipping toward certain groups.”
In an earlier version of this story, U-News incorrectly reported on whether changes to stipend amounts were considered in the drafting of the SGA Constitution. Changes to stipend amounts were considered in the drafting process, but no changes were ultimately made.