MSAC tries to save money because of budget impasse

Cassie Buchman, Administration Editor

The Military Student Assistance Center, like many departments on campus, has faced cuts because of the state’s budget impasse.

The university funds the MSAC through appropriated state funding.

Kimberlie Moock, director of the MSAC, said all appropriated funding was reduced this year.

These were cuts to general operational expenses, causing the MSAC to think more about cost-effective ways to have activities such as Veterans Appreciation Week.

“As we thought about what types of programs we wanted to do, it was like can we partner with someone who also has resources, or can we have something where we do that for little or no money and still provide a great experience?” Moock said.

To save money for the wheelchair basketball experience on Friday, the MSAC partnered with the Student Recreation Center, so the space will not cost them money, and the wheelchairs are being donated.

The MSAC also currently has a coordinator position open to save money.

“The institution has a hiring freeze as we’re waiting for the state to determine what our budget allocations are,” Moock said. “This position is still in the space where we haven’t moved to fill it yet until we know what the funding’s going to look like.”

Every state university has to designate a department of person to be a coordinator or outreach person for the military students.

“The Military Student Assistance Center reports to me, so by virtue by that that piece is covered,” Moock said. “We have individuals on campus who handle all the veterans benefits.”

Moock said like in other departments, the MSAC is trying to see if they can do programming that impacts students in a positive way but does not cost as much money.

“We’re just being very intentional and specific in how we’re utilizing our dollars,” Moock said.

The MSAC still co-sponsors the suicide prevention conference, has a full week of activities for Veterans Appreciation Week, as well as coordinates and makes sure student veterans are receiving services from other offices.

“We’re not a student’s advisor, but if a student was having difficulty or did not know how to navigate that advising, we would still be that troubleshooter for them,” Moock said. “That does not take any dollar resources. It’s just those conversations and interactions.”

Moock said they are looking at ways they can still have training without bringing someone from the outside, or bringing someone who would have little to no expenses.

She said the MSAC has never had a big spending item, but thought about individual programs and how to maintain those.

This year, MSAC has received $6,000 in appropriations instead of its usual $10,000.

“Most units were reduced by about 25 percent and so we reduced kind of in that zone,” Moock said.

As they understand better what is happening with the budget at the state level, they will have to make decisions as an institution about how the center will be staffed, Moock said.

Right now, these discussions are ongoing.

“Some of the discussions are, “will we replace the coordinator?” she said.

About 20 percent of the students the MSAC sees are graduate students and 25 to 30 percent are in their adult program.

“Some of them aren’t even on campus,” Moock said. “So as we look at the number of students who fit in this pool, we ask what are the best ways to serve them?”

Something else that will determine the staff load of the MSAC will be the recruitment and enrollment plan of the university.

“If we decide we want to have a larger percentage of our students that are military, then obviously that would play into how we might need to staff the office,” Moock said.

Moock said if the budget resolved itself, they would be able to firm up their plans.

“Right now we are in discussions on how that funding would work and what we might do,” Moock said.

Along with being director of the MSAC, Moock is the director of new student programs.

Moock said without a coordinator, there are some things she does that she normally would not have to do.

“Anytime you’re down a whole person, being able to cover everything a whole person would gets stretched,” Moock said.

Being the coordinator is a full-time job so their only focus would be on the MSAC, unlike Moock, who has responsibilities, which are across different spaces.

“Obviously, juggling those spaces can be difficult, but the important thing is to make sure every student who needs assistance, that we’re serving them,” Moock said. “Those are the things we want to make sure are happening in a rich and positive way.”

Although the coordinator position is not filled, the MSAC is still able to get their responsibilities done.

“We’re blessed, we have two students who work for the Military Student Assistance Center,” Moock said.

Moock said there are all sorts of special projects, like bringing in speakers that they could do with more money.

“If somebody said, Kimberlie, make the wish list, what is all the stuff you wish we could do, I could put together a list of things we see as supports, and things students on campus would like to have,” Moock said. “And sometimes those things take time and space and people.”

Moock said the focus is now to see if they can secure the funds for a coordinator.

“Having that position would allow us to be more creative and do additional outreach,” Moock said.

Jacob Lachapelle, a senior accounting major and student veteran, said Eastern has to get a veteran’s coordinator who is a veteran.

“They would have more experience,” Lachapelle said.

Lachapelle said Eastern is fulfilling the responsibilities for a veteran’s coordinator until the funding gets back, but having a veteran’s coordinator would be beneficial.

“They specialize in the veteran’s realm,” Lachapelle said. “In any organization, you have to have someone there all the time.”

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]