University budget, civil rights, elections set first SGA spring meeting

Todd Kleiboer, Co-Editor

Todd Kleiboer | Co-Editor

By Todd Kleiboer

The university budget, civil rights rules, and election board candidates were on the agenda at the first Student Government Association spring meeting Jan. 23.

Vice President for Business and Administration Alicia Currin and Chief Budget Officer Tina Livingston gave the presentation of the A&M-Commerce budget, fiscal year ending in August 2019.

Revenue totaled $187 million net or $213 million gross. Major sources included tuition and fees, which accounted for 45% or $95 million gross, state appropriations (25% or $53 million), student financial assistance such as the FAFSA or TAFSA (11% or about $23 million), and sales and services such as RLL or sport venues (10% or a little over $21 million).

Based on declining enrollment from 12,488 to 12,072 between the fall of 2017 and 2018, tuition and fees were projected to remain flat, according to Livingston, and a small decline in enrollment could mark millions of dollars lost for TAMUC. This would force another rethinking of the budget.

“It’s about the balancing the budget and balancing our priorities,” Livingston said.

A decline in graduate enrollment would be particularly painful for the university because of the formula funding that Texas uses in higher education. In essence, universities are granted more money per graduate student than per undergraduate student. According to Dean of Student Dr. Thomas Newsom, “it could take six undergrads to match one grad student.”

In an effort to increase retention to keep enrollment steady, TAMUC is looking at making the business side of education more student-friendly and navigable by, according to Dr. Newsom, possibly employing a third-party company to offer 24/7 support.

To increase graduate enrollment, an effort to provide more research opportunities may be made by the university according to Dr. Newsom.

“We have to find a happy medium between undergraduate and graduate enrollment,” Dr. Newsom said.

After the budget presentation, Governance Associate James Vanbebber from the University Compliance Office detailed changes in the civil rights rules pertaining to the university. According to Vanbebber, the Texas A&M System had merged the rules of Title VI, VII, IX, and ADA into one, and TAMUC had to follow suit but with a few changes of their own.

Vanbebber also noted that the system put into place “mandatory minimums” which the university adopted. This applies to students who are found responsible for violent sex acts, and they are suspended for one year from the campus. When they return, the student can no longer be a student leader on campus.

After Vanbebber finished, the four election board candidates, Karria Thurmon, Kelvin Hayes, Josh Vernon, and Addison Jones, stepped up to give their reasons on why they are capable on serving on the board.

Thurmon relied on her previous experience in SGA as a senator serving during an election cycle. Hayes, a Regents Scholar, said that his outsider perspective would keep his decisions bias-free. Vernon, a current freshman senator, said that his work in SGA would allow him to run the election smoothly, and Jones, current SGA president who steps down in May, said that her two years in SGA and the fact that she had seen the election cycle from a candidate’s view would be a boon to the election board.

After a deliberation of about 25 minutes, SGA, with Vernon and Jones recused, rejected Thurmon’s bid 1-13, Hayes’s bid 2-12, and Vernon’s bid 5-9. Jones was named to the board 11-3.