Correction Appended: An earlier version of this story inaccurately identified Crosby Modrowski as a man. She is a woman. An earlier version of this story also inaccurately stated the amount of money requested from and allocated to student groups by MSA. About $260,000 was requested and about $100,000 was allocated.
The Michigan Student Assembly allocated more money than ever to its main funding committee designated to give money to student groups this semester, increasing the funds by about 30 percent over last semester. Officials point to a new initiative to increase the fiscal responsibility of the assembly as the cause of the funding boost.
MSA Treasurer Vishal Bajaj said that about $100,000 will be given to student organizations this semester.
A large portion of that money comes from MSA’s Budget Priorities Committee, to which MSA gave more than $175,000 this year —$75,000 more than the Compiled Code, MSA’s governing rulebook, mandates for the budget for student organizations. This budget includes student organizations, MSA payroll, Airbus revenue, the up keep of MSA Chambers, and allocations to MSA sponsorships.
Passed in a unanimous resolution last month, the BPC allocated its funds to about 37 percent of the 110 student organizations that applied for money. Twenty-nine organizations appealed their requests for funding, which is more than any other semester in MSA’s history. These organizations received some funding originally but appealed the amount, asking for more money.
The BPC of the assembly gives more money to student organizations than any other group on campus. MSA also gives money to student groups through its Community Service Committee and various committees and commissions.
Through an application and appeals process, student organizations can apply for funding through MSA. During this year’s first cycle, the BPC found that more money was distributed directly to student organizations on campus than in past years.
The Compiled Code designates what percentage of MSA’s budget should be spent on internal processes like payroll, and in previous years MSA had been exceeding those percentages, Bajaj said. By bringing those numbers back down to the required level, more money was available for students.
“It feels good to know that we are doing everything the right way,” he said. “Finally we are accountable of how student money is being spent.”
Bajaj added that the increased funding to student groups is indicative of a successful funding cycle.
“When we take this to the regents, and show them the whole spreadsheet, this is what they want to see,” Bajaj said. “This is essentially the purpose of MSA.”
This budget is accumulated through a $7.19 MSA fee that students have to pay every semester, which totals approximately $266,000 dollars per semester, or $532,000 per year.
According to Bajaj, another reason the funding cycle was so successful was because MSA worked to make the funding application process more straightforward by improvements like putting more information online and adding an option for advance funding to the application.
BPC chair Sahib Singh said creating a more comprehensive funding application process, was the result of a “solidified effort” on the part of MSA officials to make the application easier to fill out.
According to Singh student organizations requested about $260,000 this semester and about $100,000 was allocated. In addition the overall budget for BPC has increased this semester from about $125,000 to about $175,000. The remaining $75,000 goes toward things like MSA payroll and scholarships.
“Students were able to navigate the process,” Singh said. “(In the past) it has been clouded by directions that just aren’t clear.”
Teresa Semaan, President of Project Flavor — a student organization that makes 5-course meals from scratch for the Ronald McDonald house — said that this was the first year that the non-profit organization received 100-percent funding from the CSC, the MSA committee that allocates money to philanthropic organizations, of MSA.
Semaan said the group’s success was partially due to a clearer funding application process, adding that the process has become easier every year since she came to the University.
“Over the last four years, it has become much more clear,” Semaan said. “The instructions on the application form are much better. They offer a lot of help. There are definitely resources available if you don’t know where to start.”
Abhinav Saxena, finance director for the Detroit Partnership, said MSA has been extremely helpful in allocating money to the organization. After the appeals process finished, the group received about 75 percent of its requested funding, Saxena said.
Saxena said that though the information sessions hosted by MSA at the beginning of the year were helpful, the appeals process could be improved so that organizations know why MSA decides not to fund certain groups.
“You don’t get any feedback on why you don’t get the money,” he said. “Other than that, most of everything is pretty straightforward.”
Crosby Modrowski, a student volunteer at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, said she was disconcerted after the funding process. Though the amount of money SAPAC received was sufficient for the organization’s first time applying for funding through MSA, Modrowski said the application process could be improved.
“It was hard getting used to how to fill out the application and how to strategize,” Modrowski said. “It’s kind of confusing because when you’re applying you have to figure out what they like.”
She added that because certain organizations don’t find out why they didn’t get funding, they don’t know how to change their strategy for applying in future cycles.
“It could be improved,” Modrowski said. “It needs to be more clear-cut.”
Though MSA officials believe the funding application process is the clearest it’s been in years, Bajaj said student organizations can expect it to become easier next year when the budget spreadsheets get put online.
“They can look online and see what they are doing compared to other student organizations, he said. “It’s much more transparent … every student should be able to see that.”
Singh said the online budget spreadsheets could be up and running as soon as this month.