From the heating within the EMU to the free football tickets every Sunday night, the Incidental Fee budget covers plenty of commodities and necessities around campus. It’s no doubt that predicting where this $17 million budget will go and who will get how much is a lengthy and frustrating job.
For the past three years, ASUO’s I-Fee budget has sunken into a deficit, meaning its brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars short of what ASUO intended on spending. Many within ASUO point the finger at the Office of the Registrar due to their role in predicting the amount of money that will be coming in from student incidental fees.
“Last year was more inaccurate than usual,” Conrad Sproul, the Financial Director of ASUO said about the registrar’s predictions. “But as a general rule, it is usually within one percent, give or take, of what the actual value of the revenue ends up being. In my eyes, that is pretty impressive given it is trying to determine what the enrollment will be.”
Aside from those predictions, a new measure that cuts incidental fees in half for online students has already caused issues with ASUO’s current I-Fee budget. In fact, according to Daniel Teo, ASUO Senate treasurer, this discrepancy has caused departments to have to revise certain plans for funding.
The prediction process by the registrar's office must take into account how many students will be enrolling from in-state, out-of-state, online and internationally. Furthermore, it must also predict how many students will be graduating or dropping out.
“As far as I can tell, it’s an unfortunate coincidence that they’ve been excessively optimistic the past few years,” Sproul said about the streak of inaccurate predictions that have lead to a deficit in ASUO.
The prediction process starts with each ASUO legislative departments; such as the EMU Board, Athletics and Contracts Financial Committee, and Programs Finance Committee drawing up estimates of how much funding they believe they need for the coming year.
Next, ASUO turns to the office of the registrar.
“We first determine the revenue projections from the I-Fee based on what [predictions] the Office of the Registrar gives us,” Teo said. “From there, we give a guideline based on their projections and how much deficit we are coming in from the previous year.”
That is when the Senate President usually informs the rest of ASUO about the predicted budget. After this step, committee members must plan accordingly.
For instance, after last year’s deficit, the departments have signed up to increase the amount they are given this year because the deficit is much more manageable.
Once the benchmarks are set, the ASUO senate typically spends all of fall term working with their constituents to ensure that the money they plan on receiving is finding the correct place.
Related: “Finding the Money,” the Emerald’s past coverage of ASUO’s Budget
This brings the process to winter term, where the budget is typically finalized. This step can come with its own problems, as the I-Fee is solely based on student enrollment, and many people could leave the school after fall term.
During the Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee's student forum, the idea of cutting free student tickets was floated according to reporting by the Daily Emerald. Cuts like this will inevitably be considered if a deficit persists within ASUO.