Speeding Up Student Organization Claims in Yale-NUS
story | Yip Jia Qi, Opinion Editor
photo | Xuerui Yang
There are 55 student organizations listed on the Yale-NUS College Student Organization Directory, each with its own budget and claims to be made. All of them submit claims through the Dean of Students (DOS) office. Typically, students fill in the Request For Payment (RFP) form and submit their receipts to the DOS office. But not many know about the processes that take place between submitting claims and receiving the money in their accounts.
The time this takes seems to vary. In an online interview Grace Kwak ’ 20, a member of the Yale-NUS Orchestra, said that while the RFP form is relatively easy to fill out, “it takes weeks for the money to arrive [in] your bank account.” Rakesh Prabhakaran’17, the President of Yale-NUS Consulting Group, echoes her woes. “Generally I can say that I wait for a few months (two to three usually) to get reimbursed,” he said.
Andrew McGeehan, Senior Manager of Residential Life in the DOS office, said that one source of the delays is the claims having to go through three departments: DOS, Yale-NUS Finance, and NUS Finance. Mr McGeehan said the actions of NUS Finance are not necessarily predictable because NUS Finance is “significantly more removed from Yale-NUS”. They do not necessarily understand how we work and why student organizations would make certain purchases. Even when written justifications for the claims are deemed good enough from the perspective of DOS and Yale-NUS Finance, NUS Finance may still come back and request further information.
When this happens, the claim has to go back through Yale-NUS Finance, then DOS, before reaching the student. After being amended, it has to go through the whole process again. Mr. McGeehan said that the DOS office and Yale-NUS Finance do their best to ensure that claims goes through NUS Finance as smoothly as possible. Sometimes, delays are also caused when DOS and Yale-NUS finance are persuading NUS Finance to accept a claim.
When submitting claims, Mr. McGeehan said that it was important for students to know how to give a proper written justification of why they are making the claim, being prompt in submitting claims, and providing as much information as possible about the event. This includes providing printouts of approval emails and a name list of participants for events under 20 people. The DOS office is also open to students coming in to seek advice on whether their purchases will be flagged. “If the treasurer is conscientious about sticking to the claiming guidelines there usually won’t be [many] issues,” said Kwok Yingchen ’18, former treasurer of I’dECO, in an online interview.
On who should be submitting claims, the DOS has a strong preference for treasurers as they are supposed to have the training and experience of making claims, and they can also track the claims being made. That said, anybody can still make a claim on behalf of their student organization as long as they can provide relevant details. Mr. McGeehan said that he does not think any student has tried to maliciously dupe DOS or their own organization out of money, but says that “if the treasurers aren’t properly trained, or if there’s a lot of turnover [of treasurers], no one knows who’s supposed to be doing what [and] then it gets complicated very quickly.” One example he gave is if a group is awarded a $5000 travel budget and it is not managed properly, 4 people can individually make claims of $1500 with no malicious intent, but this results in overspending.
Mr. McGeehan said that both NUS and Yale-NUS Finance handle more than just student claims. “There are 50 student orgs, and then there’s 200 staff, and 100 plus faculty, and all of them are submitting claims through an office that has maybe eight people in it,” he said. Mr. McGeehan understands students’ frustrations when claims take longer than students would like, and says that his office is “consistently looking for ways to make it quicker.”
Some of these measures include holding regular trainings for treasurers and, in the future, making training materials available online for those who missed these trainings. As a goal, the DOS office tries to reimburse claims within 30 days from the day students submit their claims to the DOS office.