ASWU encounters financial strain for Fall 2021 semester
The Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) are facing financial hardships this year. The budget is created and estimated based on enrollment and student fees, taking into account how many students are enrolling at Willamette, as well as leaving. The remaining fall budget is approximately $51,000, but with increased spending practices projected to happen this semester, that amount may not cut it.
When asked why the fall budget was so tight, ASWU Treasurer Michael Burke (‘23) responded saying: “primarily we’ve moved up a lot of our expenses recently. A lot of that is Oregon minimum wage moving up, and us trying to pay additional students while also having to pay students more. We have not moved up the student fee in a while so it's not bringing in as much money as we’re trying to continue giving out.” The entirety of this money comes from the mandatory student fees that students pay every semester, which is around $200. This semester's enrollment was lower than what was projected, which means a decrease in student fees being collected. Burke said that typically around 300-400 students enroll, whereas this year it decreased by 50-100 students.
The majority of this money, “goes to student organizations to plan events and activities around campus. It gives them financial support so they don’t have to front the costs.” A certain percentage of this money also goes into endowment, which Burke described as “basically a stock account. It grows in interest yearly, and the original reason we started putting money into it as well as continue to put money into it is that the hope is eventually it will grow large enough so ASWU won’t need to collect a student fee, or at least doesn’t need to collect as big of a student fee, and we can self sustain using the interest payments from the endowment account.”
COVID has also had an impact on the budget. Due to mainly virtual meetings, not as much money was used last semester. Burke explained: “People weren’t able to spend last semester, so we saved a lot of money coming in. Clubs requested money but weren’t actually able to spend it because planning was hard or their events got canceled. We took a lot of the money back and that’s the only reason why our budget is as high as it is and is feeling okay.” However, now that clubs are able to meet in person again and plan events, money is going to get tight for ASWU.
Burke is currently planning on petitioning Lisa Landreman, the Vice President of Student Affairs, to approve a marginal upping of the student fee in order to cover ASWU’s increasing operational expenses, including paying more students and their increasing pay. If ASWU does go over budget, they would get to pull from the endowment, but as a last case emergency. Burke does not expect that the budget will be exceeded this semester.