CUNY’s reimbursement system is unfair to student leaders

The Editorial Board

To access club budgets, CUNY student leaders must request payment via CUNYfirst in advance or make the purchase and receive reimbursement later. This system places student leaders in an unfair position.

For the former system, they must submit proposed expenses six to eight weeks before the proposed purchase or event date.

An additional two weeks must be added to the timeline for contracts. If purchases are technology-related, such as website domains or subscriptions, three to four weeks are added.

This means students must submit requests at least six weeks, over a month and at most 12 weeks, about three months, in advance.

For comparison, each semester is exactly three months, three weeks and six days long. Budgets cannot be accessed until the first day of classes. It can be difficult or impossible to know exactly what a club needs that much in advance.

The CUNYfirst system’s inconvenience leads students to use the only other system.

“During this semester, it is possible that your organization will not be able to make an invoice purchase using the CUNYfirst system,” a Baruch Officer Leadership Training presentation said. “In these instances, you may have to make a purchase and be reimbursed.”

Students submit anticipated purchases via a form. If approved, they make purchases with their own money. Afterward, they submit a form and documentation to receive reimbursement.

New York State and City sales tax are not reimbursed on any items.

The Office of Student Life issues a tax-exempt certificate only if students submit the event name, description of items and their use and vendor name and address pre-purchase.

Students making these purchases must go a long time without a large amount of money, in some cases.

Once in-person club events are allowed, expenses will increase significantly. Purchases for giveaways and refreshments, which would be necessary on typically a weekly or biweekly basis, can cost a lot of money.

With a city sales tax rate of 4.5%, the amount of money students pay without reimbursement certainly adds up over time.

Through this system, having significant disposable income becomes a requirement to be a club’s treasurer. It excludes students who live paycheck to paycheck or do not have a debit or credit card.

Even if leaders do have disposable money, it is unfair to expect a club’s operation to rely wholly on their personal finances.

CUNY must devise a better system for leaders to access club budgets in a reasonably timed fashion, without dipping into their own savings.

Student leaders work hard to organize events and opportunities for their peers to have fun and achieve professional and personal development. Without them, the “magic” of student life would not exist.

They give their precious time and effort to student organizations. They should not be forced to give their money too.