Finances brought into focus

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Jewels Mesa

For the first time in years, after student inquiry and an ASWC Senate request, Vice President of Finance Jim Dunkelman publically presented a breakdown of Whittier College’s budget. Each projected slide outlined how the College allocates revenue from various sources.

According to Dunkelman, the budget for the Whittier campus totals at about 59 million dollars, in the ‘16-17 academic school year. There was a 1.3 percent increase, or 783,000 dollars, due to change in enrollment and higher student aid expense. Aside from revenue collected from the College’s endowment, or investment fund, which funds the operational costs of the College, Dunkelman states that: “You can see here in our revenue sources, we’re pretty much student-fee driven.”

ASWC President senior President Amer Rashid finds this student-driven concept to be very important to note. “The school cannot operate without us paying our tuition,” Rashid said. “That means a lot. It solidifies the idea that we are the primary stakeholders of this institution.”

Equipped with this knowledge, Rashid hopes to use this to accomplish five main objectives that he hopes will benefit the general student body. “The major projects that the Student Finance Committee is working on include looking at student academic resources and how we can mitigate the cost,” Rashid said. Members of the Committee plan to look into how much textbooks and lab fees cost. He points out whether assigning the newest edition of a textbook, which is ultimately more expensive, is really necessary and that compromising on textbooks would alleviate costs for students.

Another point the Student Finance Committee will focus on is student employment. Rashid underlined the importance of having student workers, many of whom hold positions throughout multiple departments on campus. He points out that Residential Advisors are on call 24/7. “Is that fair?” He asked. “How do we navigate these issues?” Rashid stressed the issue of student employment even further by saying students may have a work-study job and an exception-funded job — and still not be able to afford tuition. A problem the committee hopes to look into with the goal of helping students.

The Committee’s fourth objective will focus on the issues of student loans and their affect on school involvement and payment. He highlights that an overwhelming amount of students graduate college with large amounts of debt. Graphs in Dunkelman's data showed that a great amount of student tuition is paid through loans.

A fourth aim of the Committee concerns the perceptions around tuition payments. “There is a lot of rhetoric across the board that talks about students and the cost of the College as something that falls on the parents. That may be the case for some students but it's not really the case anymore,” Rashid said. “On the contrary, most students are paying the vast majority of their education on their own and utilizing parental support — those are very different things than relying solely on your parent.” According to Rashid, part of the student obligation is to reduce assumptions and change the way faculty, administration and any others perceive student tuition.

Lastly, the group aims to explore where student dollars are directed and make sure students are aware of this information. Along these lines, Rashid hopes to protect student interest and knowledge by looking into the potential of writing a line into the ASWC Senate proposed Student Bill of Rights. “We’re trying to get the information our students need so that they have an understanding of the budget,” said Rashid. “If there are concerns after we have the information, well now we’re informed and we can ask these questions.”

ASWC Senate is currently working with Dunkelman in order to have the presentation published online, as well as on Orgsync.