RHA hopes to increase transparency, overcome budget problems in coming year

The organization has passed a $5 semesterly fee increase which will help mitigate the effects of lower enrollment and work to create greater transparency.

The Residence Halls Association will be doing more with less this year as it copes with funding shortages caused by reduced freshman enrollment.

Falling enrollment numbers have directly impacted RHA’s budget because the association is funded by a $15-per-semester social fee paid by each student living in residence halls. Ninty percent of incoming freshman live in the halls, MU spokesman Christian Basi said. This fall’s freshman class is about 1,400 students smaller than last year’s, which is approximately a 23 percent decrease.

Although RHA has a smaller budget this year, a proposed student fee increase of $5 per semester may offset the decline in budget beginning next school year. The organization voted for the increase last year to provide for additional programming funds.

“Our programing has been moving in a really great direction so far,” RHA President Matt Bourke said. “With the programing it’ll help; it will also go toward a partnerships and auxiliaries fund.”

The fee increase has been passed through both RHA and the Department of Residential Life, Bourke said, and the Board of Curators will make the final decision at its December meeting.

A fee increase for the 2017-18 school year would be the first in 22 years, Bourke said.

This year, RHA will continue its partnership with SHAPE. If the fee increase is passed, a portion of the increase will go toward the sexual health education group’s efforts.

RHA will also be seeking a partnership with Citizenship@Mizzou, a new program that all first-year students went through as a mandatory seminar that took place before classes started.

Additionally, the organization will look to increase transparency after the MSA presidential election controversy last year, Bourke said.

Last year, newly elected Missouri Students Association president Hayden Gomez resigned from his position the night of his scheduled inauguration after screenshots from his campaign GroupMe revealed additional campaign violations. Bourke, who would have served as Gomez’s deputy chief of staff, said his administration is committed to ensuring open communication with residents and the community.

RHA Director of Communications Kyle Roberts said RHA will also be reworking its website, which was down for most of last semester. He said the organization will be moving large portions of its online presence to OrgSync because it is a more commonly-used platform on campus.

Roberts will draft a biweekly newsletter about ongoings in RHA for other campus organizations.

Bourke said the association will become more transparent about its budget statements, streamline communications within the organization and increase RHA’s visibility in residence halls.

“We are going to try and make our presence a lot more known in the halls,” he said. “[Vice President] Martha [Pangborn] and I are going to try and be at more hall government meetings [and] try and go to more hall events.”

Edited by Emily Gallion | egallion@themaneater.com

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