Colleges contend for money
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 18:02
The colleges within Arkansas State University are fighting for money.
They’re asking for $1,233,472 to be exact.
In fact, the university advocates this every year through a process more formally known as infrastructure requests.
And while the battle doesn’t so much resemble a scene from “Gladiator,” each of the 14 departments do elect a student delegate to fight for the money in an organized presentation.
Student representatives from each college gathered around boardroom table in the eighth floor of the Dean B. Ellis Library on Monday, each making a case for their specific needs. Ultimately, the colleges requested a total of over $1.23 million in infrastructure funds, however according to Lynita Cooksey, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, the university only has $920,000 to distribute.
“It’s a process every year that involves student representatives from each college speaking on their behalf and explaining the requests of each department,” Cooksey said.
While each of the 14 departments is vying for a large portion of the infrastructure funds, there is a method to the madness.
Each student enrolled at ASU pays $4 per credit hour as their infrastructure fee, which then goes to fund items that students can use to further their education.
“It’s basically anything the students can see, touch, feel and use. It shouldn’t be disposable,” Cooksey said. “The items bought with infrastructure funds need to enhance the learning environment in some way.”
Although this is Cooksey’s first year as the provost, it isn’t her first year to handle infrastructure. In fact, she’s been at ASU since the infrastructure process was introduced in the late 90’s.
“It’s changed a lot throughout the years,” Cooksey said. “Bike racks are pretty standard now, but in the past colleges have asked for them. We used to have some departments ask for new classroom maps in the past. A lot has changed since we’ve introduced so much technology into our education.”
Cooksey said when infrastructure was first introduced; she was heavily involved with biology out of the College of Science and Math.
“I remember when we had to use microscopes with illuminators that didn’t stay where they were supposed to,” Cooksey recalled. “We would have to put wire around the microscopes just to keep the lights in place. When they asked me that first year what I thought we needed, that was the first thing I said.”
Although the process of infrastructure distribution has changed throughout the years, it has remained the same in that it is still dedicated wholly to the students’ needs.
SGA President Hunter Petrus has been involved with deciding the infrastructure funding for a few years now, and said the process for allocation money changes every year.
“There isn’t a specific formula for handing the money out,” Petrus said. “It really depends on the year and the committee.”
This year, Cooksey has decided to include representatives from Information and Technology Services (ITS) and Facilities Management, as a way to free up more infrastructure money.
“We are going to sit down with representatives from each department and see if the fees that students pay to those specific areas will cover some of the requests,” Cooksey said.
Once the committee meets with those representatives, they will then decide which colleges receive funding based on what the students need to enhance their education.
“Accreditation trumps everything when it comes to allocation,” Cooksey said. “If the college has an accreditation coming up, we will work with them to give them the right amount of money.”
Following accreditation, Cooksey said the committee looks at which colleges have added new programs or have renewals for software.
“Sometimes we will even look at the previous years, number of students or how large the college is,” Cooksey said. “When SGA comes in, they could even look at the requests and say they don’t think students need it or another priority on the list could benefit more students.”
Petrus said as a student, it’s important to him that the committee can allocate as much money as possible.
“We would love to not have to cut money from any program’s requests,” Petrus said. “We are going to try to take things off the list that could be covered by other student fees, that way everyone can really get what they need.”
Although the students and colleges made their requests Monday afternoon, the committee doesn’t have a set date for when they will know how much each college is allocated, but Cooksey said it should be within the next couple of weeks.
Once that is decided, the colleges will be notified of their allocation amounts and by July 1, they will receive 70 percent of the allotted money.
“We give 70 percent for the fall semester, and then the other 30 for the spring,” Cooksey said. “This insures that if we have enrollment drop, we haven’t overcommitted to any college. To my knowledge, that’s never happened, but it’s a security blanket that we have in place, just in case anything happens.”
Cooksey said she believes the infrastructure process is important for students, and that it shows a level of transparency toward their tuition and fees.
“If we’re collecting a student’s fee, it’s important for them to know where it goes,” Cooksey said. “We need to communicate what we do with their money. If we’re improving their university and education, students need to see that.”