Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Doing more with less

I've been noticing the past few days that several Student Governments are lauding themselves for saving money on their "retreats" and "training" for new officers. Schools like the University of South Alabama are proud of saving money by having their "retreat" on campus. Georgia State University's SGA says it saved 93% on what it spent in 2008 for its annual retreat.

This is great news for their constituents. It's proving that the SGAs are serious about saving money and using it to serve fellow students, even in a "down economy."

Most student government budgets are somewhat protected, as they usually get their funds from activity fees which are tied to enrollment. In a recession, people typically go back to college, which means more activity fees to disburse. This usually is restricted, however, to public universities and colleges, and less often to community colleges and private institutions.

Still, with many universities making cuts to faculty positions, reducing their budgets because of less revenue coming from the state or donors, and cutting back programs, Student Governments should follow that example and also be extra careful in the use of their limited budgets.

Student Government retreats are CRITICAL for the health and effectiveness of any student government. These retreats are typically done in August/September and often are at an off-campus location, so that members can be immersed in SG issues, plans, and goals without the distractions they have on campus.

But a helpful and useful retreat can easily be done on campus-- I just worked with two institutions (one in Illinois and one in Boston), where their trainings were done right on campus before the start of school. Where the retreat is housed is not as important as when. If it's after the start of school, there are myriad of distractions, so SG members and officers are less focused and can give less of their attention.

In a down economy, it's wise for SGs to be cost-conscious on their training and planning retreats. Having it at an off-campus retret locale may sound great, but you can save a lot of money for your constituents by getting your training right there on campus.