Money from activities, flex dollars spent well after semester ends

Christine Lee, News Editor

Each day, more than a hundred students print from campus computers and swipe their cards at campus dining outlets. Each year, clubs and organizations spend money on various activities.

But has anyone ever considered what happens to this money when students are finished with classes at the end of the fall or spring semester?

Chief Information Technology Officer Gloria Barlow said the money on the green print management software seen when students log onto campus-owned computers is not producing any revenue.

“The money that you get at the beginning of each semester, there is no fee for that ‘money’ that’s basically free. It’s just the way the software manages it,” Barlow said. “But the way the software displays it, is it shows it as a dollar amount, so at the beginning of each semester you’ll see it saying $55, which gives you 550 pages at no cost.”

Barlow said the software doesn’t charge to any account. She added that most semesters 6 to 7 percent of all students print beyond those 550 pages. If a student prints beyond that amount, they are charged 10 cents per page, which is charged and paid the same way as any other campus bill.

“Basically every student is getting (550)pages a year for free and if you duplex that’s 2,200 pages a semester, that’s a lot of printing,” Barlow said.

Barlow said, during the 2011-12 academic year, $585 was paid by students who exceeded the 550-page printing allocation. This money goes to replenish the paper supply budget for printing.

Barlow explains everyone is reset at zero at the beginning of every semester for everyone to start with a fresh each semester.

“The reason it’s done is this way everyone starts with a fresh balance,” Barlow said.

Barlow said the way the software is established, it needs to be on what is known as a global setting to make things equal for all students across the board.

Barlow said the goal of this software is to make students more aware of what they are printing each semester.

“The goal is to make people more conscious, to be greener, to be more aware of our resources,” Barlow said. “My goal has always been to provide as much service to students as possible and it certainly causes me dismay when I’ll walk around and see stacks of paper in the garbage because that’s not a service to (students).”

Barlow said when papers are thrown out, it means there are fewer resources available for students to use.

Procurement director Justin Kraynack explains student flex dollars will roll over from one semester to the next but not between academic years, which ends May 31.

“If you buy dining or flex dollars in June, they will roll over every semester, so they’ll go from summer to fall, fall to spring. We do not carry them beyond the spring semester, it’s basically a ‘use or lose it’ program,” Kraynack said.

Kraynack said if a student purchases flex dollars at any time during the year, it will roll over. The program stops May 31, which is the end of the fiscal year. The next day starts a new year for the program. He explains that money not used after May 31 goes back into the dining program to get re-invested.

“All the money that students put in, anything that would be unspent, by May it’s usually a really nominal amount that stays in the program. We add it to make enhancements on the program, usually for the next year, because we don’t use them before May for that,” Kraynack said.

Kraynack said the money not used by students on their flex dollars is generally spent on things such as making improvements to the dining program and paying for different needs, like replacing equipment. He explains this helps procurement budget the amount of money that is in the particular fund.

“It helps us to budget the amount of money that’s in that particular fund,” Kraynack said. “We have to be able to monitor that somehow and by having a fiscal year that just helps to do the checks and balances.”

Kraynack explains the amount of money left over on student flex dollars is generally not a huge amount, as dining services and the university does a lot of marketing toward the end of the year to remind students to use up the money on their dining and flex dollars.

“What you’ll see is food services put on different programs like selling gift cards, the bookstore does a big push and, now that we have expanded the flex program those vendors, everyone is trying to get a piece of those dollars,” Kraynack said.

Assistant Controller Jessica Swingle explains that money in student clubs and organizations rolls over from semester to semester and from year to year. She said student activity fees is under the control of Student Government and never comes back into the general operating budget.

She said the student activity fee is assessed to students only, so it doesn’t go back to the general operating budget.

“That fee is assessed to the students for the purpose of student activities solely so we don’t retain that money for any other purpose, we don’t blend it in with general operations or anything like that because that’s really the intent of it is that it’s for student funds so we leave that with the Student Government,” Swingle said.

Swingle said it is up to student government to use the money paid from student activity fee.

Student Government President Kris Rivers explains that the money in the individual accounts of clubs and organizations doesn’t run out because SG wants clubs to have continuous growth. Each is given $300 for general funds.

“The money that they don’t use at the end of the year stays in their account and rolls over for the following year for the clubs to utilize in future events and things like that,” Rivers said. “This allows clubs to have continued growth. We don’t want to restrict them by taking the money that they don’t use. We want them to be able to build up their funding from year to year so that way, in future years, they can do more things and have a much larger resource to pull from.”

Rivers explains the money that is not used for allocations and events within Student Government goes into an SG capital projects fund to help with such projects as the Student Union Building and Farley Library lower level renovation. He said it gives SG the ability to use money to improve the campus for students.

“It gives Student Government the flexibility during the year to know that there is money available. We don’t use it for our operations, but what it does is throughout the years, the things that (SG) sees that the university needs to improve for the students, we have a source of money to make those things possible,” Rivers said.

This allows SG to have money for conferences and events that clubs want to host.

“We don’t have to use the operating budget and take away from allocating clubs that want to go to conferences or clubs that want to host events, we have that money for that, and we also have this money that slowly accumulates over time, what’s left over from year to year, for those projects that we see when they come around,” Rivers said.