Less Money, Fewer Jobs: Student media, graduate students take brunt of budget cuts

Select student organizations will have less money to pay for student employees.

It’s cutting season around Florida Atlantic University. For the second year in a row, student organizations’ budgets are on the chopping block, facing more cutbacks than the year before.

But unlike last year, where the cuts were split relatively equally over 40 student organizations, some programs are feeling more pain than others.

The entire budget — made up of the revenue of the activity and service fees students pay as part of their tuition — is expected to be less next year because the university is anticipating a decrease in enrollment.

As fewer students enroll, less money is made from the fee used to pay for student employment, advisers’ salaries, professional staff and expenses. This gives the University Budget Appropriations Committee the challenge of tightening student organizations’ budgets.

The total requested budget made by university-wide programs was about $9.1 million. The problem: The UBAC only has $8.6 million to give, meaning they had to cut $500,000 of the current requests.

“We are going to need to be more efficient as a whole in order to get more done with less,” Husam T-Ahmed said, the Boca Raton treasurer and voting member of the UBAC.

More than a quarter of the $500,000 proposed cuts came from four student organizations’ paid positions.

“I was blindsided,” Owl TV station manager Pierce Sargeant said of the proposed cut to his budget. “We’ll probably have to merge a lot of jobs and overwork probably five people.”

Seven of the 13 jobs that Owl TV currently has will be cut with the proposed change in funding.

The station took a 51 percent cut from $125,000 to $62,000, which cut about $31,238 in student jobs. The committee justified the cuts by saying the station only has 370 subscribers on YouTube and doesn’t reach the vast majority of the student body.

However, Sargeant explained that most of their traffic comes from social media, where they have 2,100 likes on Facebook, and 2,700 followers on Twitter.

The Graduate & Professional Student Association lost six of their paid positions, from $71,880 down to $16,000. The program also provides partial tuition reimbursements to their graduate student employees.

Felix Hartmann, the vice chair of the UBAC and chief financial officer of Student Governement, said “They’d still get free college, stipends and they can put it on their resume,” during the deliberation meeting on Jan. 28. The UBAC justified the cuts, saying the organization spent too much on food.

The association hosts graduation dinners, award ceremonies, workshops for FAU graduate students including offering grants for travel and research.

The director of GPSA, Daria Prause, pursuing her Master of Business Administration, struggled to see the cut’s justification.

“We have families, we have children, we have mortgages to pay and we are pursuing advanced degrees,” explained Prause. “That is why we are expecting the pay rate that is marketable.”

Stefon Napier, the administrative coordinator for GPSA, felt the same.

“Most people aren’t going to agree to work for $8.50 when they’re working for an advanced degree or they’ve already had prior experience,” Napier said.

Owl Radio which streams online and in the Breezeway lost three positions when it was handed a 17 percent cut, which surprised Sargeant.

“I was shocked to see [Owl Radio get cut], because radio is already a skeletal crew as it is.”

The University Press also lost 11 of its 15 paid positions with the 54 percent proposed cut.

Despite  the  cuts  to  paid  positions,  the  UBAC members  initially  seemed  supportive  of  preserving student employment.

“We  expand  $400,000  to  programs  in  Student Media, but we also spent about the same on salaries,” Hartmann said, criticizing the amount going to non-student  adults.  “I’d  rather  see  the  money  going  to student positions.”

He also questioned the number of full-time positions in  the  Office  of  Fraternity  &  Sorority  Life  and  the number of people advising Student Government.

None of the accounts questioned for having too many advisers took a cut to the salaries and benefits expense line.  The  only  cut  to  salaries  and  benefits  made  by the  UBAC  was  $42,000  to  the  Student  Involvement program on the Davie campus.

This has Napier, also a former member of the UBAC, question recent changes to the system.

“I  think  we  had  a  good  15  [members]  if  I’m  not mistaken?”  Napier  recalled.  “I  think  they  made  it smaller  to  try  and  save  on  time,  because  it’s  a  long process.”

This  year’s  deliberation  meeting  to  allocate  the entire  budget  took  eight  hours,  running  until  1:30 a.m., but only had four voting members present. In the past, the same meeting ran 14 hours. Last years group was more dillegent, according to Napier.

“One  of  the  things  we  did  was  we  went  to  every office, including this one, and we asked questions,” he said. “It was interesting to see how this UBAC was a lot smaller [and] didn’t have those same conversations as the last UBAC.”

Unlike last year — when each organization had to present, only a select few were called in to be asked additional  questions  about  their  programs,  but  the time allowed wasn’t enough to paint the whole picture explained Prause with GPSA.

“When  we  have  the  presentation  at  the  UBAC,  it’s only five minutes, we cannot show everything we do. We can’t explain what is going on, we can not show the massiveness of travel we are processing.”

Last  year’s  UBAC  was  faced  with  an  even  bigger challenge  when  it  had  to  mandate  a  15  percent  cut across all organizations.

The change to the structure in the UBAC came over the summer.

The student senate removed some of its legislators and  took  the  House  of  Representatives  out  of  the UBAC.  They  were  replaced  with  the  chief  financial officer,  three  campus  treasurers  and  three  campus budget chairs.

The  proposed  budget  still  needs  to  be  approved by  Student  Body  President  Kathryn  Edmunds,  Vice President of Student Affairs Corey King and University President John Kelly.

Gregory Cox is the managing editor of the University Press. If you would like to contact him regarding this or other articles, email him at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter.