Georgia Tech Student Government Harboring Money

*Names have been left out deliberately to protect the identities of those involved*

Everyone is well aware of the copious amounts of random and outrageous fees that colleges charge their attendees, and there is more often than not some type of Student Activity Fee that is used to fund the Student Government.  This money is then channelled into different groupings, one of which is to fund budgets, bills, projects for the students and student organizations on campus. The student governments are usually divided between the undergraduates and the graduates. Specifically, at Tech it is the Graduate Student Senate and the Undergraduate Student House.

Personally, as an undergraduate I paid $123 every semester in Student Activity Fees.  Georgia Tech quotes 25,034 students enrolled for the 2015 school year.  I don’t know if summer students pay the activity fee or not, but SGA has a large budget to work with.  The Student Activity fee is increasing next fall (2016) to help cover the cost of a new Student Center (which is greatly needed, but that is beside the point).

To clarify, I understand the importance and difficulty of managing a budget that spreads across several platforms, as I myself am treasurer of my team (in which we receive money form different platforms and keep it in different types of on and off campus bank accounts).  Because I have been Assistant Treasurer and Treasurer, I have attended many SGA meetings and conferences and as well as talked to senators and house members about some of the actions/politics of SGA. The same of my predecessors and Presidents of the team.  This information is passed along to me, and is where many of my complaints and sources derive from.  Thus, I am sure there are costs and processes within SGA and the Joint Finance Committee that I am unaware of or I am mistaken about.

However, I like many other students at Georgia Tech pay a lot of money in random fees, and I would like them to use the fees accordingly. However, it has come to my attention that SGA has a very large surplus of money in their Capital Outlay Fund that they are sitting on (maybe 1.5 million, most likely much more like another million more) and they continue to build up this surplus by cutting budgets heavily.  Any money not spent in this Capital Outlay fund is rolled over to the next fiscal year, just to accumulate more.  The point of this money is to act somewhat like an emergency fund (which is wise to have).  But this money is just sitting there doing nothing, not even accrueing interest.  The last major student project on campus was the rehabilitation of the Student Athletic Fields as a result of broken pipes/drainage under the fields.  The catch is this: the surplus student activity fees/ “emergency fund” money was not fully used to fix this issue.  The majority of the project was fundraised as they had significant time to do so.  So my Student Activity fees sat unused in a bank account for the sole purpose of SGA boasting a budget of several million.

That money can be used to fund the budgets/bills of not just my team but of every other club on campus, especially the Tier III clubs who are cut heavily compared to the Tier II organizations (those politics are for another day and another blog post).  It is typical for 85-90% of the budget to be approved, yet clubs continually have to submit bills to the SGA to help cover costs.  For example, we submitted three bills for a rough addition of $58,000 to our budget, while a large portion of that was for a roof repair and a boat purchase, there was a signifiant bill passed for roughly $20,000 to cover entry fees and travel costs because SGA cut it from our FY 2016 budget, costs that would otherwise be internalized by our 80+ members.

As the Fiscal Year 2016 approaches the end, budget reviews are in process for Fiscal year 2017. AdHoc committees decided to make a recommendation of 10 cuts to all budgets across the board.  Our team was hit hardest by these two:  “Strike travel costs equal to or exceeding $1500 for a single event” and “Strike the 6th tournament registration for competitive organizations (if six were requested).”  There were other cuts that decreased our budget, but they were minimal compared to these two.  Now the Graduate Senate and the Undergraduate House vote separately on whether to accept these cuts from the AdHocs or not.  The Grads were silly enough to do so; hopefully, the undergrads will see the ridiculousness of the AdHoc cuts.  In the debate process one grad student rep made the terribly condescending remark of “cut budgets to the point that they [the clubs] can barley maintain themselves.”  What is the point of that? That effectively renders every team team and club on campus useless.  We would be unable to attend regattas, we could barely pay coaches, we wouldn’t be able to upkeep our equipment, dues would sky rocket.  We would essentially move from one of the best Club teams in the Southeast to one of the worst.  Unfortunately, many agreed with this man, stating that it would help organizations run more efficiently and effectively, and SGA wouldn’t be losing money from “handing out money “that was never used. (Which really makes no sense because if SGA Budgets are not cleared to zero by the end of the Fiscal year, SGA keeps that unspent money originally allocated to the Club.  They don’t really lose money.) There were several voices of reasons in the crowd who pointed out that that idea was flawed and would only create mayhem among Tech’s student organizations.

Without SGA’s funding our team could not exist.  Our members already end up paying somewhere around $1,000 and $1500 a year between dues and regatta fees for the Spring Season, and that is with SGA giving us money.  With these proposed cuts, which take out more than $17,000, our members would be paying close to $3000 a year to participate in a School Funded Club.  We pay our Student Activity Fees, we too would like to see the benefits of that money.  What is the point of cutting budgets when you already sit on millions of dollars that you do nothing with?  I pay into the system, and I would by-god like to see the results of that, not just for the sake of my club but for every club on campus.