Mason student government finances lean compared to other Virginia universities

In comparison to other Virginia universities, Mason student government receives far less funding per student (photo courtesy of George Mason University Student Government).
In comparison to other Virginia universities, Mason student government receives far less funding per student (photo courtesy of George Mason University Student Government).

With about 22,000 undergraduate students to represent, the George Mason University student government association is a major powerhouse on campus. However, the funding they receive is significantly less than that of other Virginia schools including University of Virginia, The College of William & Mary and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

“For the past couple of years, student government has started their fiscal year with an operating budget of $20,500,” Melissa Masone, assistant director for student government, wrote in an email. The organization receives a majority of its funding as a budget line item from the Office of Student Involvement, but the funding does not include donations.

“The annual Senate operating budget is $20,500.00: $1,000.00 is allocated to the Elections & Disputes Commission & $1,000.00 is allocated to the Student Body President & Vice President to use at their discretion. Thus, the Senate budget starts at $18,500.00 for the entire academic year,” the site states.

“Additionally, throughout the year, student government also works to receive donations to help fund certain initiatives. For example, both last year and this year student government has raised almost $6,000 to fund their Gold Rush event,” Masone wrote in an email

The student funding board is a way for clubs and organizations to receive funding for their events and activities. The funding board allocates money to different student registered organizations that apply for funding.

In comparison, the student council at the University of Virginia serves about 23,000 students and receives close to $700,000 to $800,000. This amount is separated into two different pools of money that is allocated to clubs and organizations (about $500,000–$700,000) and for student council to use internally (about $60,000–$80,000).

Johnny Vroom, president of student council at UVa., said student council is in charge of distributing money to all the other clubs and organizations.

Students at UVa. pay $44 as part of their tuition to student government funds. According to Vroom, this amount may increase to $50 as the university changes.

For now though, Vroom said, “We have ample funds to sustain our needs. We are still going to have to budget but we have enough money to not cut cords because of lack of finances.”

Mason students pay about 75 cents to student government as part of an $236.57 student activities fee; however, the process of allocating student government costs could differ for each university.  

Even though funding for student government at Mason is significantly less than that of other schools, Student Body President Alex Williams believes the funding is more than enough. “Personally I think the budget for student government is too big. We don’t need all that money to advocate,” said Williams.

The student assembly for the College of William & Mary serves about 6,700 undergraduates. 

“The [student assembly], including every club and organization, oversees around a $750,000 budget each year,” Brett Prestia, executive secretary of finance for the student assembly at UVa., wrote in an email. “It is from this $750,000 that the [Executive Appropriations Committee] and I divide into individual budgets.”

Students at William & Mary also contribute to their student representatives through costs in their tuition.

“The $98 is determined every spring by the Executive Appropriations Committee (a committee composed of non-student assembly people of each class), and they receive line item event requests from every club/organization on campus," Prestia wrote. "The EAC goes through every request and decides what to reward each club. At the end this is added up and determines what the student fee is.”

According to Prestia, $100,000 is unused and rolls over to the next year, which is used internally by the senate of the student assembly.

Joining UVa. and Mason, W&M also has ample funds.

The funding of student government at Virginia Polytechnic University is different than that of other Virginia schools because of their heavy reliance on t-shirt sales. 

“Student government gets its funding by both requesting money from our allocations [budget] board and by generating funds through t-shirt sales,” Dustin Dorph, president of Virginia Tech Student Government, wrote in an email.

Last year, the SGA at VT received about $15,000 from the budget board and raised nearly $200,000 from t-shirt sales.

Since there is a heavy reliance on sales, student government at Virginia Tech does not receive consistent funding from the university.

When asked if the funding met the needs of the university Dorph said, “Absolutely not. SGA does not receive enough funding to sustain itself let alone have a strong impact on the university.”

In comparison to other colleges, none of the members of student government at W&M, UVa., or VT receive stipends for the hours they put in. According to Prestia, it is even “against the code of finance student wages” to receive monetary compensation.

At Mason, the student body president and vice president each receive $1000 per semester and the speaker and speaker pro-tempore receive $800 per semester.

“The stipend is a big help; I don't want to see someone not take this job just because of monetary limitations,” Williams said.  

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