Veteran Services, Children’s Learning Centers present budget requests to SFAC
Veteran Services and the Children’s Learning Centers presented their requests to the Student Fees Advisory Committee Thursday. Veteran Services asked for an increase while the Children’s Learning Centers chose not to change its SFAC allocation from the current year.
SFAC decides each year where to allocate funds across UH’s fee-funded units, ranging from the Spirit of Houston to Counseling and Psychological Services. In Fiscal Year 2019, Veteran Services was granted a one-time funding request to increase staff.
According to the presentations, the locations from which the centers operate are not ideal for the organizations’ means, but neither department requested funding for repairs or expansions.
The office that handles all veteran affairs, from getting their paperwork for their GI Bill to connecting veterans to support services, requested a base budget increase of $6,196 from FY19, along with an additional one-time request of $5,300 from SFAC.
Director of Veteran Services Celina Dugas said the one-time request would fund the department’s use of Kognito, a computer service that provides email, analytics and all the data needed to provide training for faculty and staff to become veteran allies. This includes professors, staff and any other faculty involved.
The Kognito program would allow the Veteran Services office to send out a short training module to faculty and staff on campus. After the individual takes and passes the short test, their name, email and title go to a public page that veterans and others can view.
Veteran students will know if a staff member is able to help them based on whether their name is on the page, Dugas said.
“It’s really expensive because they look at how many students you have overall, so we have 46,000 students, and so for us if we purchase the Kognito rights to use, that would be $520,000,” Dugas said. “So talking with Kognito, they have said to us, ‘If you want to pilot this for one semester we’ll do it for $5,000’.”
If the pilot goes well, the second semester will also cost $5,000. After that, Veteran Services will decide whether they want to continue with Kognito or create their own service to use.
Some of the challenges found by the external review conducted last year by the University of Central Florida, University of Texas at Dallas and Mississippi State University were inadequate staffing, uncertainty in budget and the office space being filled to capacity.
“As a director, I know that there are other directors who need more space in terms of priority for their division,” Dugas said regarding Veteran Services not requesting SFAC funds for location improvements.
Children’s Learning Centers
The on-campus daycare service that caters to the children of current students, staff, faculty and alumni did not request an increase in its budget from SFAC.
The center not only watches the students when their parents are at school or work but teaches the children while they are there. The CLC currently has a wait list for its services but prioritizes students. Wait-listed children are determined based on their birth date.
“These families were then considered for enrollment/received an offer the following semester,” said Skopal in an email.
Students employed within the CLC received a starting pay increase to $8 per hour from $7.25 per hour by working with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and moving about 36 of them to the College Work-Study Program UH offers, Skopal said.
This allowed funds to be reallocated toward an increase in starting pay.