ASW reported a lower budget for the 2020-21 academic year compared to previous years, largely because of decreased enrollment for the Fall semester.
This comes after the school reported its largest drop in student enrollment in recent years, with the incoming first-year class size under 200 students, according to Erica Johnson, vice president of enrollment.
It’s not yet known exactly how many new first-year students enrolled for the Fall semester, as Westminster College is still working to finalize that report. As of Oct. 29, The Forum was told it may be until mid-November before those numbers are released.
ASW’s budget comes directly from enrollment through the $55 activity fee each student must pay. With the reportedly lower budget, the student board is unable to complete as many large projects or events.
“This year, ASW is facing more challenges than ever, given limited budgets, fewer […] students on campus and so on,” said Paula Wang, director of budgeting and accounting. “Student leaders are working hard towards bringing students together and providing meaningful experiences.”
According to previous budgets shared with The Forum, roughly 35% of funds go toward ASW Events. It’s not entirely known how much of the 2020-21 budget is allocated toward events, as the budget was not publicly shared this academic year.
However, the budget is allocated at approximately the same percentages as the year prior, according to Wang.
“Even though our budget is limited, with the combination of in-person and online [forums], events and activities are cheaper this year,” Wang said in an email to The Forum. “So the limited budget actually didn’t affect students’ activities much.”
According to the 2019-20 budget, $85,000 went toward Events — which is roughly 37% of that year’s total budget.
Every year, the board allocates $60,000 to go toward ASW scholarships — which was roughly 26% of the total 2019-20 budget. This monetary amount has remained stagnant since at least 2016.
ASW reports this number has remained unchanged for the Fall semester despite the decreased budget. As a result, over a quarter of the budget for the 2020-21 academic year is expected to go toward scholarships for those on the student board.
“With these hardships and increased tuition, [the] ASW board could have voted for higher scholarships but we didn’t,” Wang said. “We kept our scholarship at the same level.”
It’s unclear whether a motion like that would pass within ASW, as the board doesn’t have the power to increase scholarship amounts. Rather it’s the Senate who decides how student fees are allocated — not the student board.
In fact, 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.
To compensate for the amount of money going toward scholarships, Wang said ASW voted to remove the director of programming position and use its scholarship pay to go toward other areas of the budget — specifically toward paying other student leaders within ASW leadership.
The removal of the director position was approved by the 2019-20 ASW board during its final senate meeting. Instead, the position was split into two senior coordinator positions within the Events branch.
“We decided to essentially split that position into two,” said Alyssa Appleman, former ASW events president. “It was done because the role was never defined and we felt that it would make more sense to recreate the positions within the branch to match current trends and needs.”
It’s unclear whether this decision greatly impacted the most recent budget, as the motion was passed pre-pandemic.
The amount of money that goes toward scholarships remained at $60,000 because it is coded in ASW contracts, according to Wang. As a result, each member of the board must be paid at a certain level.
In addition to scholarships, ASW allocates part of its budget toward paying members of the Senate and Judicial Council — a new allotment written into the budget last academic year.
Other portions of the budget remain largely the same, according to Wang. However, she said ASW is working through “more challenges than ever,” such as the decreased budget, fewer students on campus and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, ASW is closely following the constitution rules and adjusting activities under COVID situations,” Wang said. “We are using the budget effectively and are finding new ways to provide better experiences for students.”
*Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct initial information given from sources.