Student Government Association CFO Fiona Hughes Discusses 2021 Budget Changes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Rowan University leaders met for the "Spring 2021 University Assembled" on March 26, to discuss in-person operations and free tuition for students in low-income families. - File Photo / Miguel Martinez

Rowan University has overcome many obstacles since reopening its campus in the fall of 2020.

The budget for fiscal year 2021 — for all clubs and organizations — will be different, but Fiona Hughes, the chief financial officer (CFO) for the Student Government Association (SGA), will help members in any way that she and the association can.

Hughes’ main role as CFO is to allocate the entire fiscal year budget, which is done through the process of budget hearings. At every hearing, Hughes meets with over 170 clubs to see where they are, in terms of progress.

“I love being able to hear from all of our organizations,” Hughes said, “and to hear about everything that they are doing – their projects and everything like that.”

This year, the SGA budget will certainly be lower than expected, but Hughes and her team will do what they can to help students who are members of clubs.

“I offer one-on-one assistance for any of our student organizations who want help filling out their budget hearing sheet,” Hughes said, “and to help them with ways that they can be generating revenue.”

Because employees at Rowan are still working from home, Hughes has extended her office hours to meet with as many students as possible. She believes that the SGA budget cut has its ups and downs for everyone involved.

“A lot of our student organizations really thrive and get creative, no matter what happens,” Hughes said. “I think that that’s always something that’s refreshing for me to see. Regardless of how much money most of our student organizations get, they’re going to do very well in the fiscal year. We have some incredibly creative and talented students at this university, and I’ve seen awesome projects happening – even if student organizations don’t have the highest of funds.”

This year, more student organizations will be receiving a portion of the allocated budget. In order to keep finances under control, all club members should be well prepared. If club members schedule a one-on-one session with Hughes before their budget meetings, she can check to see if their sheet is properly filled out.

“You don’t want to be standing in front of the Student Financial Control Board (SFCB) and myself in your budget hearing and realize that there’s a mistake on your sheet,” Hughes said.

Hughes also recommends that club leaders bring along others for support when attending future meetings.

“Whether that be your adviser, your president, your vice president or your fundraising chair – bring any kind of e-board member that you think should be present at the meeting to support you through the process, or to help you answer any questions that the SFCB might have,” she said.

Hughes has seen student clubs and organizations struggle with both the recruitment of new members and the inability to host in-person events due to COVID-19, but she is hopeful that budgets will roll over into the next fiscal year.

“I don’t want anyone to be worried that they’re not going to get enough budget to operate the way that they want to next year,” Hughes said. “Anything that we didn’t do this year, we will be able to do next year – regardless of what we are allocated.”

This is still something that SFCB has to vote on, but part of Hughes’ work as CFO is to take financial decisions like these to the board in hopes that they will make the budget work for all clubs at Rowan.

“I think that they have a really good understanding of how hard it was to be the leader of a student organization this year,” Hughes said, “and I’m pretty confident that they will be willing to do a roll-over.”

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