SFRC turns focus to divisional councils

Chairwoman Catalano said SFRC aims to do “everything in their power that students want to see.”

The allocation of funds to the 12 student governments of the major schools at MU is the main goal of the 2014-2015 Student Fee Review Committee this year.

SFRC is a student organization of 13 students who are instrumental in the allocation of student activity fees for graduates and undergraduates. The organization budgets the funds collected from 17 different fees for issues such as the MU Student Recreation Complex, student health, parking and transportation and student councils.

“Our mission statement is to be the liaison between students to administration,” SFRC chairwoman Shelby Catalano said. “Basically, what we do is we meet with all the different department heads that receive non-academic student fees, and we represent students. We ask questions that basically say, ‘Is this doing what it’s supposed to be doing for students?’”

SFRC is composed of 13 members: one chairperson, two co-vice chairpersons, seven undergraduate students and three graduate students.

Aside from the two co-vice chairpersons, who are the Missouri Students Association budget chairperson and the Graduate Professional Council treasurer, any student may apply to be on the SFRC. Out of the seven undergraduate spots, two are reserved for freshman students.

“In the past, it has been rather difficult to get in contact with divisional councils, so SFRC has never met with them up until this year,” Catalano said. “This year we had every single one of the divisional councils come in and meet with us, so that’s a little bit of something new.”

The goal is to ensure that a student’s funds will go directly to their major’s school. There are nine undergraduate councils and three graduate councils.

SFRC ensures that the divisional councils are doing “everything in their power that students want to see, affecting students’ change the most,” Catalano said.

Once the committee is assembled, Alysha O’Neil, director of fiscal operations for the Division of Student Affairs, provides an estimate for the Consumer Price Index, which sets the amount of inflation for student fees.

“We have to predict now in September what the CPI is going to be this year,” O’Neil said. “We try to be a little conservative because if there’s a little bit of money left over, and we’re talking tenths of a percent, it does make a difference for some people.”

The level of CPI determined becomes significant because of the Missouri State Senate’s Higher Education Student Funding Act in Senate Bill 389.

The law, passed in 2007, mandates “the percent change in tuition cannot exceed the percent change of the consumer price index over the past year or zero.”

SB 389 is the main factor that the SFRC has to work around in order to make sure all organizations get the needed funding, O’Neil said.

“CPI is the measure of the cost of a basket of goods,” she said. “What’s in that basket is different from what a basket might look like for higher education. Many would argue that things in that basket increase in cost at a faster pace. For example, last year the request from all these areas was almost over double the amount that we were able to increase. So the needs are definitely there.”

Currently, student activity fees for the 2014-2015 school year are $170.40 for most students, though O’Neil said there are some exceptions because of credit hours taken.

Should this amount not be enough for a certain issue, Catalano said, the SFRC may choose to pursue a referendum. Past referendums have included funding for the additions to the MizzouRec.

After the committee has met to discuss every fee, Catalano will compile a recommendation showing where the committee believes student fees would best be changed. This report then goes to Vice Chancellor Cathy Scroggs for review. If she approves, it will be sent to Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and then to the MU Board of Curators for final approval.

“It can be tough when there’s a lot of different organizations that get fees asking for an increase,” SFRC vice chairman Chris Hanner said. “But it is not completely restricting because we could give one organization more than CPI and then give another organization below CPI, and as long as it balances out in the very end, the total, then we’re in the clear.”

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