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How the Student Activity Fee Council decides to allocate your “student activity fee”

Over the past few years, there have been two notable line items on the Student Activity Fee Council allocation for essential services: $136,000 for esports beginning in fiscal year 2018 and $612,000 for marching band beginning in fiscal year 2017.

Esports received $136,000 for their first year operating; but since then they’ve received the same amount for each new allocation. 

Former Vice President of Student Affairs Douglass Covey was the person behind adding the marching band and esports to essential services. 

According to Director for the Division of Student Success Administration Shantavia Reid-Stroud, the addition of marching band and esports to essential services was because of their scholarship opportunities. 

For example, Georgia State’s esports league is under the National Association of Collegiate Esports. Under NACE, student esports teams from different institutions compete against one another in tournaments. 

According to the website, to quality for a NACE membership, institutions “must be fully accredited by an authorized higher educational accrediting agency relative to their region and national affiliation and they must be fully endorsed by the school they represent.” 

This program allows students to receive esports-specific scholarships from their institutions, as scholarships are also available to students participating in marching band. 

According to Esports coordinator and faculty member Robin Morris, this continued payment is because competing is very expensive.

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Every competition requires a technician on site to ensure consoles and equipment are running properly, and they must get paid for it. The $136,000 provided to esports through essential services does not cover it all, according to Morris. 

“We are out looking for other funding. We get donors and other groups to provide additional scholarships,” Morris said. “The student fee is really focused on the teams and traveling for them to compete. What is given to us by the essential services budget only covers the basics.”

Georgia State esports is also affiliated with the Georgia Esports League, which includes student teams from Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and the University of North Georgia. For comparison, it is a similar framework to NCAA.

However, esports does not have a breakdown budget of their spending.

“I don’t have [budgets] together, nobody has it all. There is not an esports budget,” Morris said. “We just take out of the budget for events when we need it. Like, core scholarships, core staff, basically supplies like varsity jerseys. Georgia State esports, however, does keep track of how much they spend to attend competitions and host events.”

It is the fiscal responsibility of the funded student organizations to ensure that all expenditures are in alignment with university policies, procedures and purchasing guidelines.

Esports Program Coordinator Lucas Bailey said that the esports program was introduced in the fall of 2017, but students were competing on their own before that.

At Georgia State, there are four games that have varsity teams: League of Legends, Overwatch, Paladins and Smite. Every year, Georgia State hosts an esports tournament called PantherLAN, which is open to all students.

A lot of students on the academic side of it are also involved in esports. 

“We had 35 or 40 volunteers, many of which were students, who were involved in producing PantherLAN,” Bailey said.

Similarly, the esports team allows any student to join and every student has access to play video games in their practice room at the Creative Media Industries Institute. This allows them to fall under the second-priority funding tier.

The Georgia State league operates in a gray area between academic and competitive events, and thus, Morris decides what is and is not academic.

“Some esports programs are run out of [the Athletics Department], others are run out of Student Affairs and others are run out of education programs,” he said. “We are under CMII, because we want students to get academic experience out of it, like sports marketing and sportscasting events. Esports is the competitive side of it.” 

During PantherLAN, industry professionals hosted free panels for all students thanks to the Georgia Game Developers Association.

This also includes core scholarships, core staff and basic supplies like varsity jerseys.

“We can’t send students to compete on an academic budget, so we had to get another budget to support the teams,” Morris said.

Students in higher level positions also receive a stipend. 

“It’s very different [from other organizations],” he said. “We have student assistants that we pay out of this budget. Mainly to cover the student practice room, they make sure that everything is running properly.”

Morris nails his job down to one main focus.

“I always ask the question: Is this a part of the varsity team activities or academic activities? My job is to make sure that the gray area is walked properly,” Morris said.

So what makes esports, marching band and the other programs funded in this section “essential?”

The student activity fee guidelines states that “the programs that receive money from the essential services budget are determined by priority.” 

First-priority programs are ones that are used by all students. Second-priority funding is given to programs that are designed for all students, but are not necessarily used by all students. Third priority is given to special interest groups, and then in non-priority order, budget requests will be reviewed based on the following criteria:

  • Past performance and budget management of the organizations requesting funds
  • Programs and services with broad appeal to students
  • Programs that serve the greatest number of students
  • Programs that support the community on campus, especially in relation to diversity
  • Programs that complement academics

The Student Activity Fee Committee must withhold a minimum of 5% of the total budget for contingency and decides what to do with that money later on.

Voting members then read all the proposals and submit their recommended allocations to the Georgia State Division of Student Affairs. The average amount of the recommended allocations is discussed at the beginning of the meeting and voting for the final allocation is recorded in a roll call vote.