MSA to request increase in funds

by Tracy Ellingson

The Minnesota Student Association voted Tuesday to ask the Student Services Fees Committee for more money in the 1997-98 school year.
If the committee grants the group’s request for a 13 percent increase over current funding during its annual budget review in February, MSA plans to use the money to increase member stipends, office salaries and special events/advertising funding.
“This fees request is fiscally responsible,” MSA President and request co-author Helen Phin said Tuesday during the MSA forum. “You can’t ask for fees from the fees committee without justifying what you’re asking for … and that’s why this is a fiscally responsible request, because every single increment is justified.”
Phin and MSA Chief Financial Officer Jason Frick told the forum that the request for increases in stipends and salaries will simply reflect the rising cost of living.
Last year the fees committee allocated about $190,000 in student services fees to the association for the 1996-97 school year. The group expects to spend more than $215,000 by the end of the year, however, on expenses including payroll, fringe benefits, office rental, maintenance, utilities, grants, donations and travel.
This year’s expected $25,000 shortfall will be made up by spending funds saved from the 1995-96 academic year.
MSA’s newest request reflects this year’s anticipated overexpenditure. The group is asking for about $215,000. Not all association members agree, however, that MSA needs to ask for and spend as much as they plan.
MSA representative and College of Biological Sciences senior Ben Powers said he believes student leaders send a mixed message to the Board of Regents when they ask for an increase in student services fees because it might indicate that students do not mind paying more for tuition, either.
“Last year our tuition and our fees went up exactly the same amount,” Powers said. “and I don’t think that’s merely coincidental.
Powers said the regents are likely to use the level of fee increases as a guide for tuition hikes.
“I think we as student leaders should take the first step in saying that we can do with less,” Powers said. “Maybe the University can find ways that they can save us as students some money, as well, in our tuition.”
Powers took his opposition to the request one step further by suggesting the organization make cuts in stipends and seek monetary help through donations from University alumni and current students.
Currently, the MSA executive officers, special representatives and committee chairs receive stipends for varying percentages of tuition. Assembly members who do not chair committees receive no stipend.
Student Services Fees Committee member and Carlson School of Management junior Matt Curry said the committee hopes that because so many organizations were granted increases in their budgets last year, they will not need increases for the upcoming school year.
Curry and the fees committee will spend the next two months in subcommittees, reviewing budget requests from campus organizations including MSA, and will make its final decision in March.