The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) is one of the most important student resources on campus for many reasons, but it is also the biggest student employer on campus with paid positions including cabinet members, Resident Advisors (RAs) and Teacher’s Assistants (TAs). The NCSA pays for Hamilton “Ham” Center utilities and land-lease, making it a totally student-run space. Additionally, the NCSA and its various branches are responsible for providing funding for student events on campus, such as Walls, Center of the Universe Parties (COUPs) and club events. Without question, NCSA is a necessary tool for Novocollegians. However, throughout the start of the academic year, NCSA has been dealing with the pressing issue of limited funding, announcing a budget of approximately $15,000 available currently for the 2022-2023 academic year.
When examining the College’s finances, it always goes back to the administrative level. President Patricia Okker is the person in charge of drawing up the College’s budget at the start of each fiscal year in July, alongside other administrators such as Vice President of Finance and Administration Christian Kinsley.
“Our college budget was cut because we did not meet the state-minimum score for performance-based funding,” Okker explained. “We had a significant cut, one of about $3.6 million.”
Performance-based funding is a metric that determines how well a university is performing. This is measured using several indicators, including student retention rates, graduation rates and even employment outcomes following graduation. All 12 public universities in Florida undergo the same evaluation at the top of the fiscal year, hoping to achieve an aggregate score of 70 on the evaluation. This year, New College scored a 66, leading to the loss of funding.
Although the school did miss out on quite a hefty sum of money, Okker assures the student body that it is far from a financial disaster.
“We have an opportunity to earn back $1.8 million of the original sum,” Okker stated. “Once we fell under [the score of] 70, we were required to submit a Student Success Plan. Once that plan was approved, we were eligible to receive half of the initial funding back, distributed in two installments.”
Following the loss of the initial performance-based funding, Okker submitted the university’s Student Success Plan to the board of governors in early September. The plan was approved, granting New College the right to a previously-lost $900,000. In March 2023, the college has the opportunity to receive another installment of $900,000, given that the board of governors determines that the college has been enacting its Student Success Plan efficiently.
Now, with these funds coming in, the budget can be balanced accordingly, distributing the money to departments on campus that need it the most. The initial budget released at the beginning of the academic year reflected the loss of $3.6 million, rather than $1.8 million, which contributed to the NCSA’s historically low allocation of funds. Okker emphasized that NCSA was not “targeted” for cuts.
“Just so that everybody knows, NCSA was not targeted in any way about this,” Okker confirmed. “Other units were just not able to make it with the [initial] official budget.”
As a matter of fact, money from the recently acquired $900,000 has already been distributed to the Student Allocations Committee (SAC), a branch of the NCSA that focuses on funding requests that benefit students and paying for amenities such as club events and extracurriculars. $10,000 has already been confirmed to be distributed to the SAC.
Despite the promising recuperation of one quarter of the initial funds, NCSA President and third-year Grace Keenan is still trying her hardest to secure as much funding as possible for the NCSA.
“We have been looking for money and sources of revenue for student government in areas all over campus,” Keenan commented. “I’m still really pushing each department to find money for SAC, because it’s a really big need.”
Various ideas and developments are being brought up in efforts to raise funds for student government, including some creative ways for the NCSA to generate revenue, as well as freeing up extra money that is already included in the budget.
“Student government will now get the commissions from vending machines, which used to be under Housing,” Keenan announced. “We’re also going to add two more, hopefully one in ACE lounge and, tentatively, one in [or] outside of Four Winds. That’s a small win, and the money there can be used to cover COUPs.”
As mentioned above, freeing up funds is another way the NCSA could raise more money. One potential fix that student government and the Finance department are looking into is to get Ham’s maintenance worker, Herman Johnson’s (currently on NCSA’s payroll), salary at least partially covered by Facilities. This would make more money available to the SAC and possibly allow for more TAs to be hired, according to Keenan.
“I’m trying to figure out a solution to get us [NCSA] a Chair of Finance, because that person’s sole goal would be to help clubs fundraise and look into possible grants.” Keenan continued. “It’s an investment, if we get a good Chair of Finance that can find money for all of this stuff, it would take a lot of pressure off of the rest of us.”
These solutions and proposals are all effective decisions that would free up more money for the College’s student government, mitigating the adverse effects of the currently decreased budget, which includes lack of availability of on-campus jobs.
Last year the NCSA had a much higher budget, due to lower student population and the use of reserve funds existing from the 2020 – 2021 academic year. With this higher budget, the student government was able to hire four Equipment Teacher’s Assistants (EQTAs), a position in charge of handling electronic equipment for campus events, including the setting up and breaking down of speakers for Walls and COUPs.
“Right now we’re hiring one EQTA, and we decided on two Darkroom TAs that will split hours,” Keenan mentioned. “EQTAs are a really big priority, so we’re very much trying to find the money for at least a second one.”
Positions like the EQTA and Darkroom TA are vital for keeping student activities on campus alive, so it’s assuring that Keenan and her cabinet recognize that importance.
In addition to the aforementioned ideas making their way around campus to drum up money for the NCSA, Keenan commented on the resourcefulness of the Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF). She emphasized that the CITF is for students, but it is only to be used on the improvement of physical, permanent spaces on campus. For example, recent approved proposals include volleyball court repairs, replacement of a treadmill in the gym, as well as the addition of a stairmaster machine to the gym. These proposals can be made by students directly to Keenan, through email or in-person at a Senate meeting.
“If students have proposals for capital improvements on something physical and permanent, I would love to hear them,” Keenan said. “Even if they don’t fully know or understand the process, I’m so happy to walk them through what a proposal might need.”
Okker echoed a similar sentiment, offering answers and explanations for any further campus finance questions students may have.
“If students want to know more about things like budget and performance-based funding, all they have to do is ask,” Okker commented. “I promise it wouldn’t even be a boring PowerPoint presentation.”
Despite the instability that decreasing budgets can signify, Okker and Keenan assure the student body that everything is being done at each level of the College’s organization to ensure that the school’s money goes where it is needed.