Finance committee faces perennial budget shortfall

Jeff Peyton

During the final weeks of third term, LUCC’s finance committee is saddled with the task of allocating funds to student organizations for the following academic year. Because requests typically exceed available funds—last year $230,000 was asked of a $147,000 budget—the committee has its work cut out for it. This year, similar overwhelming requests were made of the $158,000 budget, and during their remaining time, the finance committee will be obliged to make similar cuts to organization’s budget proposals in an effort to balance the budget.The money in LUCC’s general fund comes from the student activity fee which is charged to students as a separate item on the same bill as tuition. The fee is set by the trustees and tends to stay constant, though it is adjusted for inflation. Also, since each student is charged, the number of students enrolled during any given year has a significant impact on the amount of money the committee has to distribute. Finance committee uses the money to provide funds to all manner of student activities including clubs and organizations, publications (The Lawrentian, Ariel, and Tropos), and organizations such as SOUP and the film clubs, which provide programming for the community.

Chair of the finance committee, LUCC Vice President Adam Locke, explained the guidelines by which the committee makes decisions. They range from simple matters of policy such as refusing to pay for food at club meetings to the less concrete business of deciding where funds would have the greatest impact. “That’s where it’s difficult. As a [committee], we find a balance of what would be beneficial for the group and what would be acceptable to the campus,” said Locke.

Evaluating the capacity of the LUCC to adequately fund student activities, Locke commented that they do well with what they have. Paul Shrode, associate dean for student campus activities, echoed Locke’s sense that LUCC was doing well especially in terms of funding student groups. LUCC officially recognizes approximately 80 student groups, about 45 of which make annual budget requests. As a result, Locke and Shrode believe that student organizations are well funded with most of them receiving at least a portion of what they request. “We have sufficient funds for what we do,” said Shrode.

Which is not to say that more money wouldn’t be helpful. “More dollars would allow us to do things we’re not doing,” said Shrode. Shrode pointed out that, while LUCC was getting by, he felt that programming organizations such as SOUP were inadequately funded. Schools similar to Lawrence, said Shrode, typically receive more—sometimes twice the amount—than LUCC has to allocate, a good deal of which would be assigned specifically to programming. At Lawrence, however, programming receives a small portion of a comparatively small budget.

A budget increase could, Shrode points out, result in any number of improvements on LUCC’s current commitment, such as a non-academic lecture series, more money towards capital equipment, a stronger film series, more live entertainment with big-name acts, or even programs such as the USA Today Newspaper Readership Program currently in place on a trial basis, which, if kept, could cost as much as $20,000 a year to maintain.

An increase in LUCC’s budget would come from an increase in the Student Activity Fee charged to students. Shrode commented that if such an increase were made, he believes that students should know in advance what sorts of improvements they could expect to see in campus activities and programming before being expected to pay for the increased charges. At the moment, Shrode noted, the funding situation is a catch 22. “If you don’t have the money, why come up with ideas on how to spend it?” Shrode asked. “I think groups should develop their ideas, and see what’s out there,” said Shrode.