Shippensburg University students will not see a rise in student activity fees for the 2021-22 academic year, but almost all student group organizations will experience a minimum of a 6% reduction in budget allocations for next year.
The SU Student Government Association (SGA) approved these measures, along with the entire 2021-22 fiscal year SU Student Services, Inc. (SUSSI) Budget during its meeting April 22. SU President Laurie Carter approved the budget prior to the meeting.
SGA Vice President of Finance Chase Slenker and Vice President of Student Groups Christopher Higgins explained the situation in an email sent to students on April 23.
Slenker and Higgins noted the financial challenges facing SU and other higher education institutions as a result of “constantly changing circumstances” including decreasing enrollment across the state.
When students pay their semesterly bills, there are lines for tuition and a variety of fees. One of the fees is the undergraduate student activity fee, which SGA collects and uses to fund student activities.
The 2021-22 budget includes $2,253,745 in collected activity fees. When combined with other SGA forms of revenue like athletic ticket sales and vending, the total is $2,633,873.57. The 2020-21 total budget was $2,999,402.66, a 12.19% difference.
The fees, along with other forms of revenue, fund almost all student activities, organizations, athletics, club sports and events, according to SGA officials. This includes student group operating budgets, which are determined by SUSSI and SGA Budget and Finance Committee members.
“This budget is not what we had initially hoped for, but we have concluded this to be the best we can do given the situation we were given,” Slenker and Higgins explained. “Issues such as declining enrollment, financial challenges related to COVID-19, expectations from the university and a currently unsustainable budget brought about these decisions.”
Slenker said the committee reviewed many possible scenarios on how to address the issues. The 2021-22 budget reduces almost all student group budgets by a “broad cut” of at least 6% but saves students from a rising student activity fee.
The largest 2021-22 expense listed on the budget is intercollegiate athletics, with $1,888,5000, the same allocation as the 2020-21 budget. Each individual allocation within athletics also remained the same.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC), National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Collegiate Panhellenic Council did not receive budgets in 2020-21 but will receive in 2021-22. IFC and Panhellenic will receive $1,993, while NPHC takes $1,873.
The largest student group budget increase was a 35.87% to the Green League, with a 2021-22 budget of $3,461.
Another expense for SUSSI is the “free laundry” for students living in the residence halls. SUSSI paid $103,200 last year and will pay the same this year. The student activity fee is paid per credit by students enrolled in in-person and hybrid classes. SUSSSI and the university began offering “free laundry” during the fall 2019 semester, after conversations during a Residence Hall Association (RHA) sponsored President’s Hour held the previous academic year.
The Activities Program Board (APB), which hosts student programming events like bingo nights, movie nights and Ship’s Got Talent, lost $57,190 of its budget, now totaling at $110,000 for the 2021-22 academic year.
The Activities Program Board (APB), which hosts student programming events like bingo nights, movie nights and Ship’s Got Talent, experienced a reduced income commitment and budget, now totaling at $110,000 for the 2021-22 academic year.
Student performing arts groups like the marching band, community orchestra and other ensembles all received a 6% cut, leaving the groups with $133,956.41 for the 2021-22 year. This excludes Act V Productions, which did not apply for a budget, resulting in no allocation. The performing arts groups had $154,306.82 in 2020-21, and $166,501 in 2019-20.
Student media including The Slate, SUTV, WSYC and PRSSA received 6% cuts, while the Cumberland Yearbook received a 22.87% cut, lowering the budget from 2020-21’s $37,600 to $29,000.
Slenker said the overall budget cuts accomplished a few key goals:
● Expand funding to newly approved organizations, including the three Greek life councils
● Keep the broad percentage cuts to student groups as low as possible
● Prioritize allocations that would benefit the greatest number of students
● Prioritize the day-to-day operations of student groups over additional experiences, such as conferences and post-season tournaments
● Work toward a sustainable operating budget to mitigate large-scale cuts in the near future
Slenker and Higgins explained that SU bought the residence halls back from SUSSI in September 2018, giving up annual housing fees for a lump-sum sale amount. The loss of housing fees was never adjusted for through expense cuts, resulting in “unsustainable” spending out of the lump-sum.
“Within the next two years, those reserves will be greatly diminished, and we will have but no choice to cut expenditures down to a balanced budget,” Slenker and Higgins said. “We must now address this impending situation and will continue to work to mitigate the effects from this.”
Slenker said officials are working to help the campus combat the budget cuts by updating policies, creating a “collaborative programming fund,” where students in different programming groups like APB, Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) groups and the Residence Hall Association (RHA), can host events together using money allocated to the fund. The collaboration fund has a $20,000 allocation. SGA will offer new leadership development opportunities and fundraising tools and resources for student groups.