|SGA Leaders: Experience Outweighs Job Perks
November 16, 2015 by Sarah Self-Walbrick
One of the many reasons to pursue a student leader position on the Texas Tech campus is because the gig often comes with a salary and some cushy perks.
But is anyone getting rich? The Hub@TTU set out to investigate.
The most recent data available from the American Student Government Association, or ASGA, shows Holton Westbrook, the president of the Texas Tech University Student Government Association, makes $12,000 a year. This is slightly above the current federal poverty guideline for a household of one and a little over 3 percent of the U.S. president’s salary.
SGA (1)The other three executive officers of Tech’s SGA — the external vice president, internal vice president and graduate vice president — also earn $12,000 annually. The gig is sweetened by parking passes valued at about $826, which allow the executive officers to park in most places on campus.
Caleb Fisher, external vice president for Tech’s SGA, said he and the other vice presidents are classified as student leaders in the Texas Tech employee system. Westbrook said he was classified differently, but was unsure of his official employee title.
The SGA also pays minimum wage to the chief-of-staff and journal clerk.
The compensation is no match for the amount of work, said Saba Nafees, graduate vice president. The SGA leaders say they are always in their offices, on their phones or representing the Texas Tech student body at events.
Still, Tech student leaders fare slightly better than their colleagues at other Texas universities.
At the University of Texas at Austin, the student body president earns $6,840 annually, plus $5,200 in tuition assistance. Seven other student government representatives receive stipends. Legislation proposed at UT Austin in 2013 would have reallocated these stipends to students with greater financial need, but it did not pass.
At Texas A&M University, student government officials receive no salaries — only perks such as parking passes, dry cleaning and tickets to events, totaling around $1,000 a year. “Texas A&M University is the only Big 12 school that does not directly pay its student body leaders,” said a university representative in ASGA’s most recent survey.
To view more student government compensation statistics, check out this spreadsheet.
In addition to their SGA duties, student executives face other demands on their time.
Nafees, a doctoral student who also teaches in the biology department, said it can be hard to fit all of her job commitments in her schedule.
“One of them has to be my primary job, which has to be the teaching assistantship,” Nafees said. “You do have to go about it a different way.”
There is no rule prohibiting officers from holding jobs outside of Tech, but Amber Yanez, internal vice president, said she does not know how the officers would have time to work other jobs.
Fisher, who is pursuing a master’s in business administration, is currently taking nine credit hours, the recommended load for graduate students. Nafees is primarily working on research. Yanez is taking 15 credit hours, and Westbrook is taking 12 hours and preparing to take the LSAT.
“You have to figure out where your priorities lie,” Nafees said. “You have to balance them out, that’s the only way you can do it. It’s pretty tough, but it’s possible.”
The SGA executives said other parts of their jobs are more rewarding than the material perks. Yanez said being in SGA has helped her develop valuable work skills that she can use in the future.
“I have never been in such a big leadership role,” Yanez said. “There’s a lot of pressure, but it prepares you for when you graduate and leave Texas Tech, and you’re in the job world, and you have to function and just roll with the punches. Just learning that now has been great.”
For Nafees, the chance to make Texas Tech an even better place for students is her biggest reward.
“Having that opportunity to hopefully impact 40,000, 50,000 students as a team, I think that’s probably the best part for me,” Nafees said.