Student senate will hold a special meeting after the semester ends to initiate a full review of all Privilege Fee entities. During this meeting, the body will review all financial impact statements provided by organizational directors and possibly make cuts to each entity.
At any point, student senate can decide to pull all on-campus entities that receive funding from the Privilege Fee out of cycle.
In the coming semester, student body president and junior in secondary education Tel Wittmer said enrollment was already anticipated to decrease, but the uncertainty of the pandemic is likely to “exasperate” that.
“Some students probably won’t be willing to attend due to public health concerns even if we are open,” speaker of the student senate and junior in political science and communication studies Nathan Bothwell said. “Also, due to the economic impacts of many people losing their jobs right now, we’re expecting a decline in enrollment. It’s unfortunately really sad, but some students won’t have the ability to pay for higher education.”
When this authority is invoked, entities are given 10 business days to present financial impact statements that show how varying degrees of budget cuts would impact them. There are some entities with required financial obligations like bond payments on the K-State Student Union and the Recreational Complex renovations that need to be considered. However, Student Governing Association has the power to institute an across-the-board cut to all recipients of the Privilege Fee.
Legislative leadership asked directors for financial statements assessing the possibility of a two to three percent budget cut, Bothwell said.
The Privilege Fee Committee hasn’t been formed yet and the chair of the committee Madison Brown, junior in finance, was formally approved to the position Thursday evening. When the process is complete, it will be the job of the committee to approve or revise the recommendations for funding the Privilege Fee entities made by Bothwell, Wittmer and Brown.
“We are trying to look at the long term health and sustainability of all Privilege Fee entities and a ballooning rise in the Fee itself is certainly not conducive to sustaining operations,” Bothwell said via email.
The fee is a floating fee, meaning the cost to each student depends on the total enrollment.
This year, students paid about $472 a semester in Privilege Fees amounting to a total budget of about $16 million that feeds into on-campus operations like Lafene Health Center, Counseling Services, Union Program Council and Collegian Media Group.
Ultimately, decisions made about tuition and fees are subject to approval of the Kansas Board of Regents.
To cover budget shortfalls in the Privilege Fee account for the current year, a bill was introduced to authorize the movement of money from surpluses in bond accounts supported by the Privilege Fee and the Debt Reduction and Emergency Allocation Account.
Given the uncertainty about how the fall semester will look, it’s unclear what the Privilege Fee will look like going forward, Bothwell said.
Brown said the shortfall of more than $300,000 to the account was caused by the cancellation of the summer Privilege Fee because of the continued closure of campus. Also, the actual decline in enrollment superseded what was planned for this academic year.
Student senate will reconvene for the last scheduled meeting of the semester at 7 p.m. on Thursday via Zoom. Bothwell said there will be a special student senate meeting late in May to accommodate the invocation of the Privilege Fee enrollment reviews.