Student senate hosts informational event about state funding issues

GVL / Kevin Sielaff    
President Maddie Cleghorn addresses the senators. The Student Senate convenes Sept. 3 inside the Kirkhoff Center at Grand Valleys Allendale campus.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff President Maddie Cleghorn addresses the senators. The Student Senate convenes Sept. 3 inside the Kirkhoff Center at Grand Valley’s Allendale campus.

Jess Hodge

Money is a big concern for most college students, considering most of them don’t have a lot of it. The members of Grand Valley State University’s student senate have also been concerned about money, but not their own. They’ve been worried about the money being allocated to GVSU students, which seems to be significantly lacking when compared to other public universities in Michigan.

Student senate will be hosting a panel discussion called Dollars for Scholars to help educate students, faculty and staff about the problems GVSU is facing when it comes to state funding. For months, a group of senators have worked with the university and with legislators and representatives in Lansing, Michigan to try and understand why the state funding for GVSU doesn’t match the merits and the measures put forth by students.

Dollars for Scholars will be put on by the GVSU senators who have been working with the problem and Jim Bachmeier, vice president for finance and administration at GVSU. It will be held in Kirkhof Center Room 2270 on April 18.

After the panel talk, there will be time for questions from the audience. Maddie Cleghorn, student senate president, is happy to have a chance to expand this discussion and inform other students about this problem.

“The idea for a panel discussion came up when (we) started talking to students about how GVSU fits into the state funding issue, and they were always interested to learn more and find out what they can do,” Cleghorn said. “We thought if there was already some interest, we might as well make the information more accessible and give students the opportunity to get civically engaged in an issue they already care about.”

State appropriation money is allocated to schools based on six categories: undergraduate degree completions in critical skills area, research and development expenditures, total degree completions, six-year graduation rate, Pell Grant students and institutional support expenditures as a percentage of total core expenditures. Each category has an assigned percentage weight.

In the 2014-15 reports, GVSU is tied for the second-highest rating in performance metrics with a score of 10 out of 12 points. The university is second to Central Michigan University, which has 11 out of 12 points, and equally rated with University of Michigan with 10 out of 12 points. Although it is equally ranked with U of M by the performance metrics, GVSU only receives $2,835 per student – the lowest in the state.

Bachmeier previously visited student senate during the fall semester about state funding and soon after, student senate created a state-funding group that focused on how to educate the legislation of this problem and also how to inform students.

“Senate is hoping to bring students out to learn about an issue that impacts all students, regardless of who you are or where you come from,” Cleghorn said. “Funding for higher education is something that every student has a stake in, so we want to give people the information and the resources to get involved in a way they might not have done on their own.”

In addition to the discussion and Q&A, senate will be providing technology for students to look up who their respective senator or representative is in the state’s government. This way, students will be able to write a letter to their legislators about the disparity in funds GVSU students are seeing and why it isn’t fair.

While this is the first time this type of event has taken place, the senators are hoping it isn’t the last. Ella Fritzemeier, vice president of the public relations committee, thinks the efforts to contact legislators and planning events focused on the issue will continue next year.

“This way, not only are we as a senate continuously addressing the issue, but we will also be building awareness and getting more students involved,” she said. “I would definitely love the opportunity to go to Lansing to continue to shed light and put pressure on legislators regarding this issue.”

Overall, both Cleghorn and Fritzemeier echoed their desire for students to walk away from this event with more information and to get involved in the problem.

“I hope students walk away with more knowledge of the issue, but also an appreciation for student activism,” Cleghorn said. “I think people often forget that you don’t necessarily have to be the loudest voice in the room to make an impact. I hope students feel like doing something, even a step as small as a letter, because this is an issue that will impact generations of Lakers to come.”