ASW reported a 19% decrease in its overall budget for the 2020-21 academic year, according to its annual report released at the end of December. Almost every area experienced a moderate decline in funding, with ASW scholarships and associate leader pay now making up about 44% of the total budget.
ASW funding comes directly from enrollment through the $55 student activity fee. Because Westminster College reported a substantial decrease in student enrollment, ASW reported $172,637.39 in its 2020-21 budget — about $41,400 less than the year before.
“This year, ASW is facing more challenges than ever, given limited budgets, fewer […] students on campus and so on,” Paula Wang, director of budgeting and accounting, told The Forum in November. “Student leaders are working hard towards bringing students together and providing meaningful experiences.”
Almost 31% of the budget goes toward scholarships for members of the ASW student board. Another 13% is allocated for associate leader pay.
These numbers are fixed expenses based on the ASW constitution, according to Wang. Every year since 2016, the board has allocated $60,000 toward ASW scholarships — which is usually about a quarter of the total budget.
“The scholarship and associate leader pay accounts are fixed expenses based on the constitutional rules, and we [the ASW Board] cannot make any change of that,” Wang told The Forum in January. “But we can guarantee students with quality activities and experiences with the rest of the budget.”
The ASW Board can’t increase or decrease the amount of money that goes toward scholarships or associate pay, meaning it’s generally the same monetary amount every year (except this year, when associate pay was increased). Rather, it’s the Senate’s responsibility “to decide how resources collected from student fees and other sources will be distributed,” according to the ASW Constitution.
This year, ASW eliminated one of the board positions that would receive one of those scholarships. As a result, $53,500 goes toward ASW scholarships compared to the $60,000 in previous years.
Even with the position elimination, the percentage of the budget allocated toward scholarships increased in comparison to last year. In 2019-20, scholarships comprised roughly 26% of the total budget; this year, it was almost 31%.
Associate leader pay also saw an increase, accounting for 13% of the most recent budget. That’s an increase from 9.6% the year before.
Senate took the sharpest decrease in funding, with roughly $400 allocated in the most recent budget — an 80% decrease from the year before. The ASW Innovate Fund — funding that can go toward student projects — also took a hit, with a 71% decrease from 2019-20.
The General Fund saw the largest increase, with about $2,000 more allocated than last year’s budget. That’s roughly a 40% increase.
“The General Fund… is managed by [the Senate], which can approve budgets for large student activities (that might require more budget than the Opportunity Fund can grant) or provide budget support for other accounts,” Wang said in an email. “This is why [the General Fund] didn’t get cut since it can be helpful for multiple perspectives.”
ASW publicly released its budget near the end of December, just over four months after the semester began. Typically, the budget is released at the beginning of the semester, but ASW leaders said this process was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID made it even harder to update the budget sheet and to get things done as everyone, including the staff involved in the accounting process, was learning how to navigate all the funds fully online now,” ASW President Obaid Barakzai told The Forum in November.
The breakdown of the most recent budget was published almost a month after ASW Senate passed a resolution urging the Westminster administration to publicly release its budget to students. Because Westminster is a private institution, it is not required to release this information.