Rutgers Student Organizations Experiencing A Decline in Funding This Year
By Julia Motis
New Brunswick, NJ — The Rutgers University Student Assembly is limiting financial funding this year due to unforeseen overextension as the number of active clubs on campus reached an all-time high last year.
RUSA is the student government organization on campus that represents the undergraduate student population. According to the RUSA website, the organization lobbies for student-aimed policies within the University and for issues regarding higher education with the local, state and national governments. They are also responsible for gathering and allocating funds to many of the student organizations on campus.
The funding for clubs comes from a fee included in every student’s tuition. For students in the School of Arts and Sciences, RUSA receives 100 percent of that fee, and for those in other professional schools, RUSA receives 20 percent. Akash Parmar, chair of the Allocations Board and a fourth year Pharmacy student at Rutgers said the board collects approximately $500,000 each year through the fees. He also said that the percentages were agreed upon in the 2007-2008 school year when RUSA made changes to the allocations model. Previously, 55 percent of the fee went to RUSA from the other professional schools, giving 45 percent to each professional school.
However, this breakdown did not supply enough of the fee to the other professional schools, which also rely on that money for their programming. The problem now is that the breakdown of the fee that was updated several years ago is outdated again.
“It was determined before we had as many groups on campus as we do now, so it is antiquated,” Parmar said.
That being said, the total amount of money RUSA collects has not changed to meet the growing number of organizations on campus – about 400 as of this semester – so the money is being spread even thinner.
Additionally, Parmar pointed out that the board divides the money for the upcoming Fall semester at the end of the previous Spring semester. In other words, they have to completely estimate for the next year when giving out the initial funds. The board can have trouble if they allocate too much funding at the start of the year, draining their funding pool too early on. This is a problem they ran into last year. RUSA also funds club appeals for more money throughout the year, so not taking this into account beforehand can cause a huge strain in the system later when the board needs that extra money.
“We are being more stringent to make sure that we don’t overfund this year,” said Parmar.
While RUSA tries to limit the strain on their end, student clubs experience the strain as their funding is much more limited than in the past.
Michael Guggenheim, Treasurer of the Rutgers Hillel Student Executive Board and a Senior at Rutgers commented on the issue saying, “Personally, I find it almost impossible – if not completely impossible – to properly fund programs and provide the same amount of opportunities for engagement as in previous years.”
Hillel, for example, is the organization for Jewish life on campus, which provides religious and social programming for Jewish students. Without the money they need, Hillel has difficulty running events that are very important for Jewish students seeking a place to practice their faith and a community to meet other Jewish students.
Other clubs are having similar frustrations with low budgets. The Rutgers University Association of International Relations, which promotes informed discussion on international affairs, has struggled over the past few years to send students to Model UN competitions. They have had to cut down on the number of competitions they attend and the number of students they can bring to each competition.
“This makes the organization less inclusive and hurts our rankings,” said Rutgers Junior and President of the organization Evan Gottesman. “We were tenth in North America at the beginning of last year, ahead of Princeton, Stanford, Cornell and a few other big names, but now we’re not even in the top 25.”
Not only does the organization struggle to support its members, but also their lack of funding reflects badly on Rutgers’ overall standing among Universities along the East Coast. Outside fundraising has also proven very difficult for them, so the outlook for them and other clubs like them is not favorable this year.
“Those that doubt the seriousness of this problem don’t understand how integral student organizations are to the culture of Rutgers, on both an academic and social level,” said Guggenheim. “Student organizations enrich student life, provide avenues for student to explore professional, academic, artistic, cultural, and recreational interests, and help set Rutgers apart as a premier institution that attracts the best and brightest students from across the country – and all for a relatively small amount of money.”
To check out RUSA’s public guidelines for club funding and information on how to appeal for more funding, click here.