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Feature Stories

CSU Students Protest 'Success Fees'

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 7
4/4/2014


By Rebecca Y. Mata

PROTESTERS at the CSU Chancellor's Office
Rebecca Mata

On March 26, more than 100 students gathered at the CSU Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach to rally against recent “student success fees” developing throughout many CSU schools. The protest took place during a Board of Trustees meeting. Students marched outside chanting, “When education’s under attack, what do we do? Fight back!”

The protest was hosted by Students for Quality Education (SQE), including their Long Beach, Fullerton, Los Angeles, and Dominguez Hills chapters. According to SQE’s Long Beach chapter, their goals are to halt student success fees, stabilize ethnic studies and maintain Governor Jerry Brown’s four-year tuition freeze. SQE believes that these success fees are merely tuition in disguise in order to bypass Governor Brown’s moratorium.

So far, CSU Chancellor White has approved 10 campuses for student success fees to be implemented this fall, including CSU Long Beach for $267, Los Angeles for $244, Fullerton starting at $60 and San Diego State for $200. Just days following the student protest, CSU Dominguez Hills President Willie Hagan, officially announced his formal request to Chancellor White to have a success fee of $560 to take place over a three-year period.

The success fees, according to the California State University organization, are campus-driven fees made to advance academic programs, improve availability of courses and aid students in completing their degrees. Though its uses vary by campus, success fees can go toward hiring additional faculty and expanding programs.

Though CSU law mandates an advisory referendum, or student vote, as its preferred method of determining students’ standpoints on having such fees, it also states “The president may waive the referendum requirement…if he/she determines that a referendum is not the best mechanism to achieve appropriate and meaningful consultation,” according to the CSU website.

All 11 of the CSU presidents who formally requested the student success fee at their campuses used the “alternative consultation process,” as their main method of determining student standing, rather than the referendum. This process entails a fee advisory committee, comprised of students, faculty and staff (appointed by the CSU president) to consult with samples of students before making a decision.

CSU Director of Public Affairs Michael Uhlenkamp said the alternative consultation process allows for a greater level of information for students. “It’s not a way of getting around the referendum; it’s a way of getting more feedback from students,” said Uhlenkamp. “With the [alternative consultation] process… students have been engaged throughout.” Uhlenkamp said that several campuses like San Diego State have incorporated a student vote along with the alternative consultation process.

As CSU students rallied outside, several students and faculty addressed the board of trustees during their public comments at the meeting.

Wendy Herrera, student at San Diego State, was among those speakers. She explained, “36 percent of SDSU students voted for no fee hike, and 64 percent who wanted... a type of fee hike were grouped together to falsely demonstrate a majority.” Herrera also addressed the presence of SDSU President Elliot Hirshman at the board meeting that day. “Students at SDSU attempted to engage in a discussion concerning the student success fee at SDSU before the recommendation to Chancellor White,” said Herrera. “Hirshman did not cooperate and actually avoided students on different occasions.”

Douglass Deutschman, SDSU biology professor and parent of a SDSU student, expressed his support for the SDSU success fee. “The recent approved fee is vital to maintain the quality of academic programs at SDSU,” said Deutschman. “As a parent, I support the student success fee because it will improve opportunities for current students and future students at SDSU.”
Several more SDSU faculty expressed their support for the Student Success Fee implemented at SDSU.

SDSU student Janera Montano also spoke out in support of the success fees. “I would like to thank Chancellor White for approving this fee because I do see it as an investment in my future,” said Montano.

Sean Washburn, SQE member and graduate student at CSU Fullerton, spoke to Chancellor White and the Board of Trustees heatedly about his opposition to all student success fees. “This fee is a glaring loophole around the four-year moratorium on tuition that was passed by the voters of California and signed into affect by Governor Brown,” said Washburn. “The truth of the matter is that this loophole is being exploited by our greedy administrators for their own good.”

Washburn addressed Chancellor White directly, “Please repeal these fees; usher in a new era that returns to the reason why the CSU system was established: to provide affordable quality education.” Washburn, whose microphone was cut off for exceeding time limit, continued to plea with Chancellor White.

CSUF SQE members and graduate students Ryan Quinn and Carie Rael also spoke. Rael called the fees “a divisionary tactic to get around the tuition freeze.” Quinn agreed and stated, “While we all agree that student success is important and that there should be increased student funding, it should not be born on the backs of students.”

Outside, students continued rallying. CSULB SQE member Alex Reyes, 22, said, “Students are struggling to find ways to pay for their tuition, and yet we’re seeing these increases.” Reyes, like many other students, initially attended CSULB for its affordability. “Other universities were not within my means,” said Reyes. “That’s why I chose Cal State Long Beach.” Reyes added, “We just hope that the Chancellor and the board of trustees pay attention to what’s going on today.”

rebecca@longbeachcomber.com