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SRTG and CAA merge, campus remains hopeful for student allocations

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Recent budget cuts to the New College Student Alliance (NCSA) budget, due to lower than expected enrollment, has led the Council of Academic Affairs (CAA) grant for ISP, thesis and student funding to be integrated into the similar but more complex Student Research Travel Grant (SRTG). The only application for student funded projects will be the SRTG. With the soon approaching deadline of Oct. 21, students and professors are left wondering what effect this merge will have on the application process, funds available and availability of awards. 

Information about student demographics, the number of students currently enrolled this semester and the finalized NCSA budget have not yet been announced. The numbers quoted in this article are subject to change, as they are from the tentative NCSA budget. 

Effect of NCSA Budget Cuts 

Prior to this semester, the CAA grant came from the NCSA budget, funded by student fees. At the Board of Trustees Meeting (BOT) on Sept. 14, Interim Dean of Enrollment David Rhodes stated the new class of students is estimated at 180, which makes the total enrollment of New College estimated at 695. He stated the numbers will “likely change and could even increase before the final number is determined in October.” This number does not match up with the expected figure, which NCSA President and third-year, Steven Keshishian, calculated last year.  

The NCSA budget prediction for this year was forecasted to be around $160,000, but due to lower than expected enrollment, the budget is closer to $125,000. This amount is still being calculated.

“We had the largest New College class ever graduating [last year], and then we had less students coming in [this year],” Keshishian remarked. 

The $125,000 budget factors in the large chunk of Contra and Administrative fees. These fees are currently predicted to account for $42,000 and are subject to change. The Contra and Administrative fees were added by the school three years ago. Contra fees cover fee waivers for students receiving full scholarships and Administrative fees represent a six percent charge on all NCSA transactions, covering expenses for administrative services provided by internal departments, such as the business office, Human Resources and Campus Police. 

“We realized that we didn’t have enough money, so we were like, what’s the biggest thing that we can find that the school can fund with their academic money that has more restrictions than our A&S money? It was the CAA,” Keshishian said. 

Another reason the CAA is merging into the SRTG is because last year about half of the applicants that applied for the SRTG also applied for the CAA, which lead to some internal difficulties.

According to Business Manager and Coordinator of the NCSA Dawn Shongood, President Donal O’Shea allocated $60,000 towards the SRTG this semester, $10,000 more than allocated in the 2018-2019 school year.

“It’s not a fun thing to deal with budget cuts,” Keshishian said. “We’re doing our best to keep the student experience the same as possible, while saving as much money as we can so we don’t go in the red.”

NCF Foundation Allocates Part of the SRTG Funds

The New College Foundation is donating $50,000 to the SRTG this year. More than twenty years ago, the SRTG was started by alumns who had great experiences traveling and researching during their academic career. Since then, the SRTG has been able to contribute and fund countless research projects, theses and study abroad programs for students. 

This year, both alums and private donors will contribute to the SRTG fund.

“This is the first go around that we’re launching right now with the combined committee, and Nicole [Gelfert] is really overseeing the whole thing,” Director of the New College Foundation MaryAnne Young said. “So the Foundation’s role is we help supply the funds, but we don’t make the decisions.”

Young explained that the Foundation has more leeway with funding allocation, but the college does not share that advantage.

“Monies that come from the college are not quite as flexible as monies that come from the Foundation, because the college money is mostly state funding and the Foundation provides private funding, so it gives the college flexibility on how those monies are used,” Young said. “There are very strict regulations from the state—for all state universities—about how you use that money.”

Once the SRTG committee decides on which students will be awarded, the students information is forwarded to the Foundation. The SRTG committee is comprised of the Fellowship Coordinator (Nicole Gelfert serving as an ex-officio), three faculty members, three alumni and a new addition of three student representatives. These three students will be selected from current CAA members who are not applying for the SRTG.

Third-year Ky Miller received $1,200 from the SRTG towards her National Student Exchange (NSE) program in Spring 2019. 

“I don’t know how I would’ve paid for everything if I hadn’t gotten that money, so it was really useful,” Miller said. “I was in Japan for five months just studying anthropology and environmental studies and trying to travel as much as I could. It was really wonderful.”

The Foundation asks that the students write a thank-you letter to a donor. In the spring, a scholarship luncheon is held where the donors and the students meet and get to know each other. 

“We don’t want students to worry,” Young said. “We want students to know there are monies available, it’s still the same process, we’re just trying to make it easier, streamlining and collaborating. That’s really what we’re trying to do.” 

Simple break-down of the new SRTG 

McKenzie Cameron was recently appointed Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA), which oversees the CAA and is a member of the SRTG committee. 

“With the merge, the SRTG will be able to accommodate all the things that the CAA would have funded,” thesis student Cameron explained in an email interview.

The SRTG application is the same as in previous years. The SRTG application has instructions, which vividly spell out eligibility, deadline and grant periods, application process, selection criteria and budget instructions and require a faculty letter of recommendation. 

“I’m currently working with administrators from several offices to find an additional source of funding,” Cameron said. “I’m particularly trying to find a way for students to get funding for conferences, since a lot of CAA funds have gone towards conferences in the past.”

The award is allocated twice a year. For fall, the deadline to apply is Monday, Oct. 21 at 5 p.m. The spring application is open in Feb. 2020 and will close 5 p.m. the Monday after Spring Break. If a student is awarded a grant in the fall, they are able to use it through the spring as well, and vice versa. 

“We’re going to try to get the SRTG to meet more frequently,” Keshishian said. “This is in the formative, it’s becoming closer to reality, but you know [how] New College moves on New College time and we’re trying to make things move as quickly as possible.” 

Gelfert has drop-in hours on Tuesday, Oct. 1 from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. in Hamilton “Ham” Center and Monday, Oct. 7 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in HCL 1. She is also available for individual appointments for questions in regards to the application. The SRTG email is srtg@ncf.edu.

“I hope this will encourage and support students considering applying and those who might want individualized help navigating the process,” Gelfert said in an email interview.

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