It was recently reported that the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) would have up to $800,000 in unspent funding at the end of this year due to budget rollover. As USG funds come from student fees, this is essentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of fees paid by students who will not reap benefits. Having such a drastic gap between fees and spending reflects a failure on the part of USG to create funding policies that balance meeting student organization needs with a stable budget.
How did we get to this point? Several years ago, USG was at a surplus and so adjusted funding policies to make sure the money was not wasted. However, quick growth from Tier 2 organizations led to an anticipated deficit in 2017 and 2018, so the policies were adjusted again to stave off this prediction. Once again, a proper balance could not be struck, and USG ended up with another surplus. USG has essentially been going back and forth between large surpluses and deficits, struggling to find the “Goldilocks” zone.
To be sure, the changing nature of Tier 2 organizations makes setting up proper funding allocations difficult. As the number of clubs is constantly in flux, as are the amounts each one spends, it can be very difficult to develop a robust system that can meet these changing needs. USG certainly has to make sure they don’t go over budget, while keeping some money in reserve. At the same time, underfunding like we are seeing now is also a serious risk.
What can be done about this back and forth in regards to funding? First, USG needs to engage in some serious analysis on club spending. Analyzing funding from past years and getting information from Tier 2s on their planned funding as soon as possible will help to pinpoint what USG expects to be spending. If they can narrow this down and avoid running very large deficits or surpluses, then smaller adjustments can be made from year-to-year to make up any remaining differences.
However, one of the key remaining challenges will be communication. If funding is being adjusted, then organizations need to be kept abreast of changes as soon as possible. Even seemingly small changes can have a large impact on a group’s plans. Furthermore, the burden will be on Tier 2 organizations to make their spending estimates as accurate as possible. If USG is to get close to balancing their budget, they will need accurate information. Organizations must do their best to avoid over- or under-estimating their anticipated expenses if true progress is to be made.