It is currently peak budgeting season for most nonprofits and government agencies, which includes Shippensburg University (SU), Shippensburg University Foundation (SUF) and Shippensburg University Student Services Inc. (SUSSI), which manage all aspects of our collegiate life.
The process for SUSSI to review student organization budget requests, and, similarly, for SU to allocate funds to departments in fiscal year 2023-2024 has already begun. This year will also include contract negotiations with two of the largest bargaining units: The Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculty (APSCUF) and the State College & University Professional Association (SCUPA). Budgeting processes at any organization are often lengthy, divisive and are difficult to manage, not to mention during tough financial times.
Having been involved in both the SU and SUSSI processes in the past, I will attest this is no easy process and never makes everyone happy. Individuals on budget committees and the administrators overseeing said budgets have challenging decisions to make with limited financial resources. With declining enrollments year over year, a rapid growth in inflation and a likely increase in negotiated personnel costs, the budget process will be more challenging than most years. All three university-related entities have frequent overlaps in funding. Many departments of the university receive SU funding but also have SUF accounts from designated fundraising dollars. Some departments advise Student Government Association (SGA) funded organizations and receive funding from SUSSI as well as SU and SUF funds.
Take athletics as an example: SU covers all personnel expenses (salary and benefits) and some facilities expenses, while SUSSI covers most facility expenses and all operating expenses including food, transportation, uniforms and equipment. SUF holds fundraising accounts for each sports team to cover costs not covered by the other entities and provides scholarships for student athletes. As another example — SUF owns the parking lot behind the Spiritual Center (which it also owns) and charges SUSSI annually for the usage of those lots. The parking permit fees are collected by SUSSI and are held until directed for disbursement by SU for parking lot improvements and for paying the usage costs to the SUF.
In any budgeting process, it is imperative to understand all money flows affecting each cost center. With three major financial entities, it is imperative to evaluate funding requests to each organization with the other entities in mind. From my experience and conversations with SU and SUSSI administrators regarding this matter, this is not something that has historically been analyzed or considered. It is integral that with diminishing resources, all three entities increase financial transparency and collaboration with one another to ensure that resources are distributed as cost-effective as possible, while maximizing the needs of SU students, faculty and staff. The three financial “players” need to work together to track the costs of inter-connected departments more accurately and if they do, should see cost efficiency that ultimately helps to preserve our university’s success and collegiate experience.