In an effort to accomodate nontraditional students at Georgia State, the university dropped the Student Activity Fee from the mandatory payments for students classified as part-time. The effects have been widespread, affecting many of the organizations both created for and run by students.
Leadership Georgia State, which provides leadership development opportunities for Georgia State students, had seen its budget grow incrementally over the past few years to meet with the burgeoning student population. For the 2007 fiscal year, the budget of Leadership Georgia State was reduced by 33 percent, one of the largest cuts among fee-funded program. Leadership Georgia Sate receives funding from the University Wide Fee Council.
“It was a complete shock, especially since our data has shown a dramatic increase in leadership participation,” Dhanfu Elston, Leadership Development advisor. The council received requests totaling over $153,000, however the committee was only allocated $100,000 to distribute to ten groups including the Greens of Georgia State, Office of Community Service, and the Student Health and Promotion Office.
The budget request submitted by Elston totaled over $70,000, which equates to 70 percent of the total budget allocated for the University Wide Fee Council. The budget proposal provided funding for Emerging Leaders, Leadership Conclave, Leadershape Institute, LEAD team, Leadership Resource Center, and the Monthly Leadership Series.
“It was impossible for us to give them that amount of funding, that wouldn’t have been fair to the other nine organizations who receive funding from that account,” said Russell Mildner, former SGA President for the 2005-2006 school year.
“Cuts were taken across the board and no one was immune to them. Everyone has to make sacrifices,” Mildner said.
Elston immediately appealed the decision. In his appeal letter, he stated, “We understand the decisions have to be made, but we implore you to reconsider the budget decisions that will impact some of the most notable leadership programs on the Georgia State University campus.”
The appeal letter reported that, with the given budget, two Emerging Leaders programs would be removed, eliminating nearly 50 future student leaders. The letter also reported that the number of attendees to various leadership programs would be reduced.
“We gave it serious consideration but if we were to give him more money, we would have to take it from someone else. The resources are stretched very thin, this was not a fiscal year for unnecessary wants. We wanted to make sure organizations got what they needed,” Mildner said. ”The appeal came after everyone was notified of their allocations for the upcoming year. Groups were already making plans and it would have been downright theft if we were to take their money and give it to someone else,” he added.
As part of the increase in leadership participation within the university community, Leadership Georgia State had successfully implemented programs targeting commuter students with programming compatible to more schedules. More broadly, Leadership Georgia State works to get every student involved in leadership activities of some sort on campus, especially those not already involved in organizations.
Since Leadership Georgia State serves to place students in various organizations around campus, the budget cuts not only affect the Leadership Georgia State program, but also organizations such as Incept, Greek Life, Student Government Association, and countless others that have been discovered by many students through Leadership Georgia State.
Elston stated that “The budget reductions not only impact our program, but the many students that utilize our services to aid in their personal and professional development.”
The reduction in the budget allotment has led to cutbacks in a multitude of ways for Leadership Georgia State. The LEAD Team, which sponsors monthly leadership workshops that feature national and local speakers, was forced to eliminate positions from its group. Several of the newer programs which have proven popular, including the five-week leadership seminar series, Surviving the Jungle, which is designed specifically for commuter and non-traditional students, have faced one of two options: complete elimination or drastic reduction in services from the originally intended form.
Every year, student leaders hope to be able to attend the statewide Georgia LeaderShape Institute, a six-day state-of-the-art leadership program. This year, Georgia State’s representatives have been reduced from 15 students to 10. The Leadership Resource Center, where student leaders and organizations can use supplies such as button makers, die-cut machines, color printing and banner paper, will no longer be providing such supplies.
The Student Government Association, as previously mentioned, also suffered a significant budget cut for the 2007 fiscal year. While not the easiest occurrence to pull off, SGA President Joan Collier is urging student groups to collaborate on various projects.
Mildner added that SGA’s budget was cut to show compassion for other groups.
“How could we sit there as SGA and allow us to continue to have a large budget for the new administration while cutting budgets of other organizations. We are all feeling the pinch,” Mildner said. “SGA’s primary purpose is to govern not pass out pizzas and party like some members of the current administration seek to do. I was in complete shock to find out how they spent money in the past. I ordered my administration to be cautious with spending and everyone complied.”
In response to reduced funding, Collier encourages collaboration among everyone. “Why have five groups spending money on the same program idea, when the groups can get together and have a bigger program that will help a more diverse and larger portion of the student body?”
Elston agrees with the concept of collusion, saying that with various groups hosting events such as blood drives in close proximity of one another, more money is potentially wasted than if groups collectively held these events.
Despite the significant cuts, Elston remains optimistic for the future. The Leadership Georgia State team is planning to submit the same budget request as last year, with the hope that a new University-Wide Fee Council recognizes the significance of leadership development.
Elston hopes that the new fee council will consider the budget requests and eventual allocation of funds in a thoughtful manner. In particular, he hopes that the University-Wide Fee Council will place emphasis on groups that both “reach a diverse student population and have a proven track record of success.”