From SAF to SGA: A Million Dollar Budget

By Emilie Munson

The advent of 10 o’clock Ross raises more questions than just cake or cereal.
The Student Government Association initiative, which began last week, is a new addition to the already tight SGA budget. The SGA will now pay a student monitor $50 a week to ensure students are generally peaceable and neat during the hour that Ross is open. This number may not seem much initially but it totals $1,400 a year—all just to pay a student to watch other students eat food.
This startling fact left us to wonder, how much money does the SGA have to spend? And how does it decide to allocate its funds? The Campus takes a look.
The Budget
The SGA has a budget of about 1.1 million dollars every year.
The budget comes from the Student Activities Fee, a part of all students’ tuition. This year each student at the College paid $410, the highest ever student activities fee.  In recent years, the student activities fee has increased due to inflation and the increasing number of student organizations.
The specific amount of the fee used to be determined by the SGA Senate based on recommendations from the Finance Committee. That changed in 2013, when the SGA decided the fee would only increase by inflation plus one percent, similar to the College’s CP+1 policy dictating tuition increases.
The SGA also has a reserve fund of $75,000 of budget money left over from previous years that it can use for funding emergencies.
Awarding the Funds to Student Groups
This budget, presided over by the twelve-student Finance Committee, a sub-committee of the SGA, is responsible for allocating funding to over 140 student groups.
In general, in order to receive funding, a student group must be an SGA-approved student organization, with a Constitution and other specifications, in order to receive funding. These student organizations, from Riddim to the crew team to the debate team to the Campus, are sorted into one nineteen group clusters. Organizations then submit funding requests to the Finance Committee and their cluster managers for approval.
New student organizations are capped at $1,000 of funding in their first year. As student organizations age, the Finance Committee then considers how many students they are influencing with their group, how deeply students participate in the group and the organizations’ past budget requests.
The Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) receives the greatest portion—30 percent or approximately $330,000—of the SGA Budget.
The SGA, another student group that the Finance Committee funds, is allocated approximately $44,000 of this budget each year. This money constitutes their operating budget, which pays for a variety of student services including break buses, newspapers, the Middcourses website, SGA publicity and helps subsidize the ACTR. It is this operating budget that is funding the 10 o’clock Ross student monitor.

Every once in a while, special initiatives proposed by individual students, not student groups, are funded. These initiatives must have the capacity to impact large numbers of students in a meaningful way. One recent example of a student initiative funded by the SGA is the Burgin Cabin, a four-sided backcountry shelter on the Rikert trail system that is intended be a warming hut for Rikert skiers and an overnight destination for students. This year, the SGA awarded approximately four percent of its total budget—the same as the SGA Operating Budget—to the Burgin Cabin initiative.
Funding Difficulties
The median funding allocation to student organizations is $2,130.
“Across the board, few student organizations get as much money as they ask for,” explained SGA President Ilana Gratch ’16, who served on the Finance Committee for three years. Each year, the Finance Committee receives about $200,000 in requests than it can afford to fund.  This means that the Finance Committee must deny the full funding for about 18 percent of the requests it receives.
For some student groups, not receiving enough SGA funding is a huge challenge. Club sports, like crew in particular, often have huge equipment costs that can be difficult to cover if not met by the SGA budget. The SGA and the Finance Committee are looking into ways to share the cost of club sports with the Athletic Department.
It is important to note, though, that the Finance Committee has never awarded a student organization no money.
“We want to make as many things on campus happen as possible,” Chair of the Finance Committee Aaron de Toledo ’16 said. “But given that we want to make as many things on campus happen as possible, sometimes when an organization comes in and they have their best case scenario request and then their [limited budget], we may have to fund them on the more limited basis.”

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From SAF to SGA: A Million Dollar Budget