ISS ranks at bottom of Big Ten budgets

While the University may hold its own in enrollment figures against other Big Ten universities, the student government’s budget is a different story.

Illinois Student Senate operates on one of the lowest budgets in the Big Ten, with $39,000 allocated per year.

Despite receiving the least amount of funding, it is ISS’ internal structure that allows it to function.

“I think that we are unique within our circumstances. A lot of other schools have more responsibilities,” said Carey Ash, vice president-internal of ISS. “The student senate gets to focus on what it should be doing and that’s advancing the quality of life of every student here at the University of Illinois.”

ISS allocates the majority of its money to committees, town hall meetings, paying its videographer who captures each meeting, its election, lobbying for funds at U of I Day in Springfield and conferences, said Jeffrey Schroeder, ISS treasurer.

ISS does not need to allocate funds to programming, such as concerts, like other student governments do, because the Illini Union Board is responsible for those events, said Kara Beach, ISS press secretary and former Illini Media Company employee.

Brad Tran, president of ISS, said that the student senate budget is strictly for internal use.

“A lot of the other student governments have dual roles and additional roles that we don’t have in terms of funding,” Tran said.

An example of a school with more financial responsibility is the University of Michigan.

The Michigan Student Assembly, or MSA, is allocated $501,390 per year, all of which comes from student fees. Students pay $7.19 per semester to fund the assembly.

Vishal Bajaj, MSA’s treasurer, said a good amount of the money goes toward the univeristy’s Budget Priorities Committee and the Community Service Committee. The assembly also sponsors the revenue-generating Air Bus, which takes students to and from airports during breaks in school’s academic calendar. Bajaj said the rest of the money, about $100,000, goes toward their 25 different committees and commissions.

Tran said for universities like Michigan, they already have an obligation to distribute its money to certain areas while ISS can choose to spend their cash wherever they deem necessary.

“Many of the schools with extremely large budgets, a lot of their funds are already allocated,” Tran said.

Penn State University’s student government, known as the University Park Undergraduate Association, or UPUA, is given $140,000 per year to operate.

Mark Cannon, chairman of the assembly for UPUA, said this money goes toward a variety of different projects. He said it used funds to increase bus loop service around school at night, provide students with supplies for finals and host a large concert for the student body each spring.

Indiana University’s student government and the Indiana Union Board operate similarly to ISS and IUB. However, Indiana’s student government still has a larger budget than ISS, although the discrepancy is not nearly as with large other schools.

Neil Kelty, member of the Indiana University Student Association, said that Indiana’s student government typically runs on funds between $80,000 and $100,000.

Despite working with a smaller budget than other schools, ISS is able to accomplish their goals by practicing responsible financial discrimination, Schroeder said. The senate started this school year with a budget of $64,000 because they were able to save approximately $25,000 the previous year.

“Every year, or at least the last few years that I’ve been involved, we never spent our full budget,” Schroeder said. “Just because we have money, we don’t spend it.”