Spring allocations took place Sunday, May 8, as the Carleton Student Association (CSA) Budget Committee allocated more than $718,000 to various student organizations and campus offices. This year’s allocations were the largest in Budget Committee history, dwarfing last year’s previous high of $624,088.
Total Carleton Student Association allocations (which include categories such as special allocations, capital reserves and student activity fee scholarships) amounted to more than $970,000. Last year, CSA only allocated around $800,000 total.
The increase in spending was a result of a massive increase in requests from student organizations. This year, organizations requested $824,464, compared to $648,838 in the previous year — a 21.4% increase.
The Budget Committee was able to finance such a large increase because they had a budget rollover of more than $277,000 from 2021-2022. Rollover funds come from money that was allocated but unspent in the current school year. This year’s rollover was also the largest in CSA history.
CSA also collected more than $740,000 in income, $723,450 of which came from the Student Activity Fee.
“It’s a year of mosts,” said CSA Treasurer Quinn Buhman ‘24. “We have the most income, the most rollover, the most money requested from us and the most spent.”
In 2023, as in most previous years, the CSA ran a deficit, allocating $96,609 more than they earned in income. This year’s rollover — a result of all the activities canceled due to COVID-19 — provided a cushion that prevented the CSA from going into debt. Yet the CSA knows they can’t count on such a large rollover in the future.
“Rollover increased this year over last year, but I’m not anticipating that as a continuing trend,” said Buhman. “For a while before COVID-19, the rollover was going down, as our spending was eating away at it. But now, we’re just riding off of COVID-19, and we’re kind of holding on to the last bit of that.”
With the prospects of a decreasing rollover in the coming years other measures may be necessary to maintain a balanced budget. This becomes even more difficult because the Budget Committee prioritizes funding as many budget requests as possible.
“Once a club asks for an event, it’s basically grandfathered in unofficially,” said Alex Widman ’23, a Budget Committee member. “Next year is going to be hard, because we funded it
last year, and if we don’t fund it this year, we’re going to look bad. So every year, we’re going to spend more and more money on club allocations.”
“For the most part, we aren’t in the business of denying organizations events,” said Buhman. “We exist to give money for these student-organized events to happen. There is the principle that if we’ve accepted it in the past, we’ll accept it again. And I think it should be that way, because I never want to cut an organization’s event. I don’t want to tell someone they can’t run that event. It’s a slippery slope of whose events when it comes to cutting events. There’s no good way to decide whose event goes on who doesn’t.”
The committee faces the predicament of managing a budget in the face of ever-growing spending. While the rollover prevents financial pain in the present, the problem still looms. The Student Activity Fee is the main source of income for the CSA, but Buhman does not want to raise the fee any more than is absolutely necessary.
“It is a Budget Committee decision to raise the student activity fee or not,” said Buhman. “In the winter, we usually have a long discussion about it, we have projections and we usually try to roughly match tuition increase which is about 4%. We like to try to keep it consistent if we can. We don’t anticipate having to change that in the near future.”
One of the reasons the Budget Committee doesn’t want to raise the fee is the onus increased fees places on students on financial aid. Students can have the Student Activity Fee waived, but only if they accept the entirety of their Carleton financial aid package. Buhman emphasized that this was an administrative decision, not the Budget Committee’s.
The Budget Committee allocates $30,000 per year for students to have their fee waived but much of it goes unused.
“We’ve been working with them to understand this policy and try to change this policy because we want the money to be available to people,” said Buhman. “If you take one cent less than their package, you’re not eligible for the fee to be waived. It’s very frustrating for us; it’s a discussion we have pretty much every year, but there’s not all that much we can do about it. But that’s a priority we have going into fall and winter to reevaluate how we can do that aid and see if there’s another way we can support students.”
Regardless, Buhman is happy to be able to provide so much funding to student organizations, especially after years of the pandemic.
“I’m excited we had a record year of spending, and we say it every year since COVID-19 but hopefully we can finally have these student events that haven’t been going on; we’re excited to fund them.”