Lost funding hits student groups hard


One of the many realities we face as college students in an economic crisis is the constant slimming of universities and the associated budgets. The impact of the cuts is obvious when viewing a financial aid package or an eBill; but in the bigger picture the affects of these cuts are far more serious than just our personal financial situations.
We cannot continue to strip our academic experience down to the bare skeleton of college experiences because of state deficits and budget shortfalls we had no part in creating.
When considering what defines a useful college experience, one must consider the importance of student groups and academic programs. When legitimate programs and groups start falling, we need to stand up not only as a University, but as a community of higher learning and ask: how much can we cut from our budget before our college experience nears uselessness?
By opening student group funding up to students, we would not only put the future of student groups in the hands of students, but through this, we would also be guiding the university by funding the most productive organizations and thus guiding academic policy.
The boost these groups give to a student’s self confidence, social life, and academic portfolio is tremendous. Through the economic crisis, groups that have in the past provided these essential pieces of a college education have been torn apart by budget cuts. If these groups are not supported by students and the administration, our college experience will suffer, and NMU’s reputation as a center for quality education may disappear.
Every group I have participated in at NMU has had significant funding issues. While in one of NMU’s most significant and successful academic programs, Model United Nations, I watched many students quit the group due to the costs associated with traveling to its conferences. The students’ academic careers were shamelessly hurt by nothing more than unnecessary financial troubles. Other universities support academic programs to a point of student affordability, meaning the school pays for all expenses associated with travelling.
Another group, the Political Review, had its funding from the Political Science Department completely cut for the academic year. The organization is one that does not exist at a lot of colleges, and gives students the unique opportunity to be published as undergraduates. Students gain experience by writing research pieces that can not only help shape university policy, but help frame the beliefs of students, and defeat the most dangerous opponent in our society, apathy. When cuts start to erase the unique opportunities we present as a college, we lose our academic individuality.
Even our student government is poorly funded when compared to other schools across Michigan. ASNMU is frequently mocked for its ability to problem solve and enact new, beneficial initiatives on campus, but its yearly funding is well under 5 percent of other schools in the state such as Michigan State, in which our enrollment is around 25 percent of theirs.
In fact, while our student government struggles to obtain funding for a bike share program, MSU has enough money to bring The Fray to their campus on Sept.16.
At some point, our collegiate leaders are going to have to stand up against lawmakers who always see education funding as the first thing to cut. Because of the SFC’s bylaws and constitution, student groups and academic programs (excluding ASNMU) cannot receive non-event funding from the SFC unless they are earmarked, a process which can be described as both difficult and unlikely for most student organizations. This leaves student groups with no option for funding.
What we need as a learning community is money available to all student groups upon application and revision of need.
This could be done by simply having a small percentage (10-5 percent) of the SFC’s semester funding to be made available to student groups for non-event funding. This funding could range from traveling to conferences, producing academic papers, and even meeting with academic representatives of other colleges to cooperate on ideas and projects. The way the system is right now, student groups have no way of anticipating funding for the following year, and departments have the final say in every decision.
If funding was left open to students, groups would be able to travel to conferences that were not possible before. This would increase our academic reputation, in turn reducing apathy and gaining recognition for student success not previously possible. By letting students properly fund the organizations they run with their money, we will better ourselves and not only students; but as a university and community.

Editor’s note: TJ Weber is a junior marketing major and editor of the NMU Political Review, a student run publication that provides student perspective on political issues. He can be contacted at [email protected]