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UCF student leaders and their salaries

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 19:02

Government officials play the role of public servant in our modern society. Their duties include watching over the people and responding to their needs. The parameters of an official's service verses the compensation they receive for that service is continually questioned. And it should be, as the funds that pay these officials come directly out of the publics' pockets.

How does the role of public servant apply to student officials? Shouldn't these student officials-in-training serve only out of a love for the people? Shouldn't their reward be the experience they gain?

At UCF, the list of paid Student Government Association officials includes 16 members of the Executive Branch, five of the Legislative, two of the Judicial and nine members of the Election Commission.

Student Government Association President Marco Peña said, "These are the students who must put a lot of extra time and effort into their work."

Butch Oxendine, editor of "Student Leader" magazine agreed, saying, "The paid students generally are the ones with the bigger workloads."

"You usually find paid SGA officers at state universities," Oxendine said. "Most of the big state schools like UCF have multi-million dollar budgets similar to real-world corporations," he added. UCF's SGA, in fact, handled a budget of near $8 million last year, according to Peña.

Oxendine added: "Student Government at these schools operates just like our government. So paying SGA officials at big schools makes sense; they are being compensated for the enormous amount of responsibility they carry. At smaller schools, SGA is less sophisticated."

At UCF, student officials work an average of 12 to 28 hours per week. Comptroller Brian Battles said: "The officials being paid often put in more hours than they receive pay for. We successfully petitioned to increase the Constitutional Officers' hours from 20 to 28. We lost a lot of students because of the lack of pay for hours worked. Many had debts piling up."

Payment at UCF most often means salaries. For undergraduate SGA officials, this constitutes the only form of payment. Graduate officials can benefit from the new Graduate Assistantship Program. This program allows graduate students for UCF to receive a tuition waiver, sometimes in addition to wages, to help augment costs.

Finally, where does the money come from? The student Activity and Service Fee supplies the budget money that SGA handles, including the cash for the SGA officers' salaries.

Some groups may question the payment of SGA leaders. "If there were no SGA, our jobs would be done by UCF administrators," said Peña. "They would require much higher salaries and leave students with much less money to be spent on activities and services." Battles agreed, saying, "Students officials have the interests of students at heart."

The debate has been raging on college campuses across the country since 1997. That year, "Student Leader" magazine confronted the issue with a survey asking the question, "Should SG officers get paid?" Since then, the debate has grown and the SG Salary Survey has generated nationwide interest. USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, The Chronicle of Higher Education and college newspapers across the country have explored this question within their pages. The magazine continues the survey with over 400 colleges participating, UCF among them.

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