Student organizations are preparing to apply for funding through the Student Government Association at USM.
The IHL board approved the $20 per semester student activity fee and a $35 per semester capital improvement fee in May 2015. The school implemented the fees in fall 2015.
For the fall 2015 semester, USM had a total of 14,579 students enrolled. Gulf Park campus’ population has stayed at about 2,900 since fall 2013.
At first glance, fees seem minuscule, but based on population estimates, at $20 a student, Gulf Park campus alone should gross $57,720 for student activities. USM Hattiesburg’s student population is at approximately 11,693 students, grossing a $233,860 budget for student activities. At $35 a student, Gulf Park campus’ budget for capital improvements at $101,010 for the 2016-17 school year, placing USM Hattiesburg’s budget at $409,255.
USM’s Chief Financial Officer Douglas Vinzant said the revenue generated by the fees could make USM a more competitive university.
Executive assistant to the president Thomas Burke said, “[USM] is certainly sensitive to the cost of education and is committed to keeping down costs but not at the expense of a quality educational experience for our students.”
Burke said Gulf Park campus’ interim Vice President of USM’s Gulf Park campus Steve Miller and Director of Student Affairs Christy Elias would work hand in hand with the SGA and others to determine the distribution of the student activity fees for the Gulf Park campus.
Gulf Park SGA president McKenzie Irish said she is happy student will have input in the use of the student activities fee.
“It is only right that the student body should be able to decide how their hard-earned money is spent,” Irish said. “After all, the student activities fee was implemented to help improve [student lives] on campus.”
“The process began with informational sessions that explain the process to applicants,” SGA Equality Chair Zachary Irons said. “A representative from each organization must be present at one of the two sessions in order to apply for funding.”
The informational sessions took place Feb. 23 at 12:15 p.m. and Feb. 24 at 5:15 p.m. in the SGA office on the Hattiesburg campus. The SGA will accept applications from Feb. 25 to March 11. SGA Senate Budgets and Appointments Committee will interview applicants March 21-24.
“I recommend that organizations bring an itemized budget for the committee,” Irons said. “It is important to be organized and prepared to answer various questions about the requested funds.”
Irons said the process is similar to other legislative allocation systems.
“Next, the committee will move to deliberations and then the dean of students reviews the recommended allocations,” Irons said. “After that, the Senate must approve the allocations. Finally, the SGA president and the vice president of student affairs review it.”
Organizations will either receive funding or get a five- day window to make an appeal to the vice president of Student Affairs April 11. Upon receipt, organizations can use funds from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2016.
“[Both of the fees are] to support student-related facility improvements as well as student activities,” Vinzant said. “We are not providing some services that are provided by some universities or in some circumstances under providing them.”
Burke said the Gulf Park campus could possibly use the capital improvements fee for health services. The Hattiesburg campus nurses see patients daily, while nurses visit the Gulf Park campus once a week.
“There are certainly contractual arrangements that can be made with many types of health care providers on the Coast, including counseling services,” Burke said. “I am sure those options will be pursued.”
Gulf Park students and faculty hope the capital improvement funds from their campus will be used to provide a dedicated full- time nurse.
“I find it curious that the Gulf Coast campus does not have access to the same services as our counterpart in Hattiesburg,” said Mary Stewart, a Gulf Park Spanish instructor.
Stewart has ideas for other improvements as well.
“Perhaps a day care facility for students, faculty and staff could also be considered in these decisions,” she said.
Gulf Park SGA adviser Jack Covarrubias said the fees can go toward student life projects, whether funding a concert series or student life buildings.
Covarrubias said all capital improvement projects should directly benefit student life on campus.