Enrollment this academic year of 2011-2012 at Bellevue College is lower than it was last year, but this hasn’t caused next year’s budget for Student Programs to fall.
After the Board of Directors meetings took place during the first week of April, the Services and Activities Committee decided that no programs budgets would be cut this coming year, and that some programs’ budgets would rise. This is not the first time all programs have maintained their budgets; in fact, the budgets have been stable for years.
Faisal Jaswal, Assistant Dean of Student Programs, has no voting power on the Services and Activities Committee, but he can advise it on what actions to take concerning budgets. “His advice every year is to not reduce any program’s budget,” said Hristo (Chris) Stoynov, Program Coordinator of Student Programs, “to not cut anybody so to speak.” For Jaswal, a program should either be guaranteed its previous year’s funding or given a higher budget.
Programs, budgets, clubs, committees… This may all seem very complicated, and it is. The process of outlining the budget programs and clubs receive is a complex one with numerous procedures guaranteeing that students’ money is well spent. “This bureaucracy ensures that there are many checks and balances and that it is all transparent,” said Stoynov.
One common misconception that prevents understanding of this issue is that “programs” and “clubs” are the same thing.
A program is a more permanent organization within Student Programs. It has a yearly budget with which it spends on salaries for its employees, events and needed supplies. There are 63 programs at Student Programs, among which are the Associated Student Government, Black Student Union, The Watchdog and KBCS-FM, the Bellevue College supported radio station.
Programs are funded by a state-fixed percentage of what the college made off of tuition the year before. In other words: Enrollment takes place every quarter for a whole year. By the end of the year, a percentage of that money is set aside; the following year, that portion is given to Student Programs.
According to Takhmina Dzhuraeva, ASG Vice President of Finance and Communication, ours is one of the only colleges in the state where Student Programs receive money that was set aside the year before. “That’s the beauty of this program,” she said. At other colleges, the programs start the year off with nothing and wait until enrollment is over every quarter to know what their budget will be for that quarter.
Tuition money then goes to the Services and Activities Committee, who distributes it to the programs. “Sometimes it gets so complicated,” said Dzhuraeva, who was chair of the committee this year, because a number of programs will ask for a higher budget that the college isn’t necessarily making off of tuition costs.
This year, although enrollment wasn’t any higher than it was last year, the Services and Activities Committee was able to raise programs’ budgets by redistributing the money Student Programs has received. The extra money came from sources like a cancelled program or a cancelled grant budget.
A club, on the other hand, is less stable. “We have a number of clubs that changes from zero on July first, to close to 100, and then at the end of the year drops to zero again,” said Stoynov. At the beginning of every year clubs charter to exist. They have no budget.
When clubs need funding for a specific event, trip or project, they fill out a funding request for the amount from the Associated Student Government. The latter can then either refuse or accept to fund. If they accept, there are three funds out of which ASG can provide the money. The two smaller ones are for cultural and functional club activities. The third larger one is the ASG reserve.
Accepting or refusing to fund clubs is not an easy task either. When the amount being requested is larger than usual, the office of Student Programs sits down with the club and foresees the reasons for such a large request. “We scope the project with the students,” said Jaswal, describing how specifications like state-approved travel agencies, insurance and transportation are reviewed and taken into account with the students. A funding request is therefore rarely rejected, but can be re-evaluated.
Jaswal is adamant about the fact that these student funds should be in student hands. “I have a very strong belief that it’s important to help students learn fiscal responsibility, good stewardship of funds.” He said, “In my ten years here I’ve found most people to be very judicious. Students are very conscientious; they’re careful about controlling expenditure. I can’t remember a time when I said to a club ‘I’m not going to fund this.’”