Student senate requests an extra $50,000 for the student life fund to meet expanding student needs

GVL/Mackenzie Bush - A Student Senate meeting is held in Pere Marquette Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.

Mackenzie Bush

GVL/Mackenzie Bush – A Student Senate meeting is held in Pere Marquette Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.

Jess Hodge

At the beginning of each school year, Grand Valley State University’s student senate receives a budget that they then allocate to different organizations on campus depending on requests heard from those organizations. However, most of these organizations do not receive all of the money they request. To help better meet student needs, GVSU’s student senate has requested to add $50,000 to the student budget.

In the 2015-16 school year, out of the $898,826 requests the appropriations committee heard, only $561,396 was approved. This year, Rachel Travis, the vice president of the finance committee, saw the need for more money to allocate to the budget for undergraduate students.

Travis, along with student senate president Ella Fritzemeier, sits on the student life fund advisory board. The board meets once every few months to discuss the process of the student life fund. They met in October and at that meeting, it was established there was a need for more money in the funds.

Travis dug into the past year’s data and created a packet of metrics based off the data. She then met with Brian Copeland, associate vice president for business and finance and Jeff Musser, assistant vice president for budgets, to get their feedback on the information.

“This packet of information was then presented at the meeting, and it was established by myself and by the board meeting committee that there is easily a $200,000 plus need in the student life fund for undergraduate students,” Travis said via email. “We decided that it is quite unreasonable to ask for a $200,000 increase to our budget, but it is instead much more reasonable to ask for a $50,000 increase.”

Now that the amount was decided on, Dean of Students Eileen Sullivan will request the money from the budget committee at GVSU.

“$50,000 is still a significant amount of money and it will really eliminate some of the need seen from student organizations, but it is not an amount that will completely blindside the budget committee for the university who makes all of the budgeting decisions,” Travis said.

Even though student enrollment at GVSU has been steadily increasing, Travis said this is the first time in more than a decade there has been a formal request for an increase in the student life budget.

Travis thinks the need for a large amount of money but the inability to request it all could be alleviated with some changes to the budget request process.

“If a culture is started where the vice president of finance for student senate asks for a small $30,000 to $50,000 increase every year to the budget, instead of a large increase every three to five years, it will be much easier to obtain the increase that the fund needs each year,” she said. “The overall $200,000 need can be alleviated over the next four to six years if the (vice president) of finance for the student senate continues this trend to ask for an increase in the student life fund budget.”

If the money is approved, Travis said it will be allocated depending on student needs. She explained she will be meeting with different organizations that receive money from the student life fund but do not specifically put in requests for events. Some of the groups will be media groups, Laker Traditions and Club Sports.

“By meeting with (these organizations), I will be assessing what their needs are in comparison to what the needs are of the specific councils such as travel, cultural, service and advocacy, etc. and allocating the funds based on the needs of each group (or) council,” she said.

Travis believes GVSU will need to continue to adjust funds based on student needs, especially if GVSU goes on to increase their enrollment as they have in the past years.

“Grand Valley is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, so as there are more students on campus, there will be a larger need for funding for these students,” she said. “In addition, the expenses for traveling or putting on events continues to rise as well over time with inflation. The prices to do just about anything are continuing to rise over time as the value of the dollar depreciates.”