SFC streamlines, reduces oversight

Each year, the Student Fee Committee is responsible for roughly $16 million collected through the Portland State student fee; of that, $747,000 is allocated to student clubs and organizations

Each year, the Student Fee Committee is responsible for roughly $16 million collected through the Portland State student fee; of that, $747,000 is allocated to student clubs and organizations. Given the large sum of money handled, this year the funding body has passed on some of its responsibilities to the Organization Budget Council to streamline the budget process and improve accountability.

The SFC—the elected group responsible for setting and allocating the student fee—has always funded the OBC, which in turn funded new and small student clubs and organizations. The SFC was responsible for all other groups. However, now, the SFC will directly fund only the university’s student services, ASPSU and publications, the OBC and the Recreational Clubs Council, while the OBC funds all other groups.

The change is designed to create a better model of budget control for all entities funded by the student fee. Jim Gent, one of three co-coordinators for the OBC and the former co-chair for the SFC, believes the change will minimize costs to students.

“What this change means for the SFC is that the time and capability to thoroughly investigate the greater part of a $12 million to $13 million budget is possible,” he said.

Previously, the SFC directly funded around 100 organizations, with each entity receiving a budget ranging from $5,000 to $3 million, according to Gent.

“The changes implemented by the SFC remove the direct interaction of student organizations with the SFC, allowing the SFC to investigate approximately 20 budgets and the manner in which they are spent, creating more fiscal responsibility,” he said.

In years past, when student groups outlined their budget proposals for the prospective year, many would frame their new budget requests around the club’s budget line from the previous year. Student organizations were predicting, a full year in advance, what their budget for the following year was going to be.

“Under the old model…the entire budget would have been set at the very beginning of the previous fiscal year, often by inexperienced students who would not be using that same budget,” said SFC Chair Krystine McCants.

The overestimation for years compounded the issue of student groups not fulfilling their budget requests, and yet asking for more money for the next year.

“[The change] also looked toward preventing a possible $500 [student] fee in the next 10 years,” McCants said. “At the rate the fee had been increasing, it may have been distinctly possible.”

Under the old system, all student groups had to submit proposals a year in advance to the SFC or OBC. However, the recently developed OBC guidelines state that every group will be allocated a modest base-operating budget. Groups that have been transitioned to the OBC from the SFC will maintain their SFC allocation for this academic year. The other groups that have always been funded by the OBC will be given a base-operating budget of $500, but are eligible for up to $3,000. Previously, these groups were only eligible for $2,000.  

In addition to the baseline operating budget, student groups will be eligible to request additional funds for programs on an event-by-event basis. The groups will have to make their requests three to six weeks in advance and give the OBC a quote on how much their event will be.

“Student leaders of student groups will probably experience the biggest change,” McCants said. “They will now be funded by the OBC.”  

Though the OBC’s structure and funding model is different than that of the SFC, it will provide student leaders with greater programmatic flexibility, according to McCants.

“This is because they will be setting their own programming budget during in the year in which it will be used,” she said.

For students who do not participate in any fee-funded groups or organizations, “the differences may be slightly less tangible, but no less important,” McCants said.

McCants explained that because there will be greater accountability, large programs and departments will be more closely scrutinized.

“This means that every dollar collected from students will have to be justified,” she said.

 In the past, groups also charged students to attend events, despite the fact that students paid for many of the events through the student body fee. Therefore, the new restructuring idea encourages the student groups not to charge students in these situations.