If anything is clear, it’s that St. Cloud State is facing a budget crisis. Nowhere is that more apparent than in this article:

Three years ago, St. Cloud State University students voted to raise the fees they pay in order to prop up the athletic department budget, including a boost that saved the football program. In December, students will be asked to renew that fee, which expires June 30 and provides about $500,000 of the athletic budget.

I don’t doubt that people are asking how this is proof of a budget crisis. Prior to three years ago, athletic programs were funded through the general fund budget.

It isn’t coincidence that three years ago marked the start of the contract between SCSU and the Wedum Foundation. That’s lost over $3,000,000 since then. Three years ago is also when enrollment started dropping. FY2010 was SCSU’s peak enrollment year. President Potter’s budget on nonessential things collided with a significant drop in tuition revenue.

Since SCSU’s peak FYE enrollment year, FYE enrollment has dropped by almost 20%.

The vote will happen by email from 8 a.m. Dec. 2 to 3 p.m. Dec. 4. The St. Cloud State student government put two questions on the ballot for the student fees. The first asks if the student fee should “remain constant.” The second asks if the athletic department should be required to ask students to renew the fee in 2018. If students vote no on the second question, the fee will be permanent. If Question 1 fails, or if less than 8 percent of the student body votes, the student government could put the question on the ballot again in the spring.

Three years ago, athletes dominated the voting. The referendum passed overwhelmingly. This time, the vote is invalidated if only a tiny percentage of students vote. This time, a high turnout by athletes won’t be enough. This time, they’ll need support from other students, too.

If the December vote goes against the fee, the university would have to use its decision-making process to determine how to respond. The university is in the process of filling a $2.9 million budget deficit for 2013-14 and is expecting to confront one again in 2014-15. That makes a potential shortfall in the athletic program more challenging, Potter said. “There is no obvious source of funds,” Potter said.

One obvious source of funds is the contract President Potter signed with the City of St. Cloud for 3 police officers. That’s $240,000 a year that didn’t need to be spent. President Potter could also contact the Wedum Foundation and tell them that they’re opting out of their contract if Wedum doesn’t renegotiate the contract.

SCSU has lost $1,000,000 a year the first three years of the contract. If Wedum isn’t willing to renegotiate the contract, President Potter should make clear that SCSU is opting out of the contract ASAP. If that doesn’t get the Foundation’s attention, then the Foundation isn’t paying attention. I’m betting they’re paying attention.

What this crisis is about is a) the University’s enrollment is suffering and b) President Potter is spending too much money on nonessential items. SCSU paying for police officers isn’t essential. Spending money on upscale apartments for students isn’t essential either.

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