Formation of a Task Force to Assess the Role of Student Success Fees Across California State University (CSU) Campuses

AS-3175-14/FGA

RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of the California State University (ASCSU) recognize the fiscal exigencies that have prompted the expansion of variously-named Student Success Fees on CSU campuses; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU recognize that questions have been raised regarding these fees, such as: impact on overall cost to the students, effect on access, possible inequities among campuses, lack of clear guidelines on their usage and effectiveness of the campus consultation process; and be it further,

RESOLVED: That the ASCSU urge the Chancellor to form a task force to undertake a system-wide assessment of the role of Student Success Fees that will:

  • review Executive Order 1054 to determine if changes to CSU student fee policies are advisable,
  • investigate the practice of “alternative consultation” in lieu of a vote by the entire student body, and
  • evaluate and clarify the role of Student Success Fees within the broader context of the fiscal needs of the CSU and the future anticipated funding levels from the state; and be it further

RESOLVED: That this resolution be distributed to Chancellor Timothy P. White, CSU Board of Trustees, Assembly member Das Williams, Chair, Assembly Higher Education Committee, Assembly member Al Muratsuchi, Chair, Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 (Education Finance), Senator Carol Liu, Chair, Senate Education Committee, CSU campus Presidents, CSU campus Senate Chairs, California State Student Association (CSSA), California Faculty Association (CFA) and the CSU Emeritus & Retired Faculty Association.

RATIONALE: Since 2008 individual campuses in the CSU have introduced Category II fees, frequently referred to as Student Success Fee, in addition to regular tuition and other campus-based fees as a way of augmenting the state’s general fund support for instructional programs and other basic higher education needs. Eleven campuses have such fees and a proposal for a twelfth is currently under review. The size of the fees varies across campuses and ranges from $162 to $630 (3%-12% of tuition). While, traditionally, campus-based student fees have been used to cover incidental classroom costs (such as laboratory fees) or to support activities not covered by state funding or regular tuition (a student union expansion or a child day-care center), the Student Success Fee is primarily intended to support basic classroom instruction.

The fees are proposed and approved by the students themselves under the process outlined in Executive Order 1054. The California State Student Association (CSSA) has taken up a resolution requesting a review of Student Success Fees since the students no longer believe the State is willing to support higher education at a level necessary to ensure student access to a quality education. The ASCSU recognizes the fiscal pressures that have prompted campuses to establish Student Success Fees and applauds the willingness of students to help solve the problem of underfunding, even if it means taxing themselves to receive the education they deserve.

Nonetheless, the ASCSU remains sensitive to questions that have been raised about the manner in which Student Success Fees are being implemented in the CSU. First, and most fundamentally, the fees are being used to make up for the failure of the state of California to adequately support higher education. Guidelines as to the purposes to which the fees are to be used are unclear, yet, mostly, they are exactly those activities that state support (supplemented by regular tuition) should be funding. As such, they amount to de facto tuition hikes under a different name. Questions have also been raised about the consultation process by which students are asked to approve (or disapprove) such fee proposals; there appears to be a lack of consistency as to how this takes place among campuses, and it is not clear whether the “alternate consultation” system, which calls for approval by a student fee advisory committee, is sufficient to allow for genuine student consultation. Furthermore, the fees may run the risk of exacerbating differences in quality and opportunity among campuses as students on some campuses may be better able to support fee increases than others.

The introduction of Student Success Fees has the potential for unintended political consequences; such fees run the risk of being seen as an effort by the CSU to side-step the freeze on tuition increases that are part of the multi-year funding proposal for higher education proposed by the governor. Several newspaper editorial boards have commented on this, and more importantly, it has been noted in the Legislature. The Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 (Education Finance) recently observed that Student Success Fees were little more than a tuition hike by another name and that it was imperative that the existing tuition freeze be honored. He further stressed that the introduction of such fees would undercut the Assembly’s willingness to support a budget augmentation currently being requested by the CSU.

Student Success Fees are implemented on a campus-by-campus basis according to the guidelines established in Executive Order 1054. In light of both the questions raised above, and its long-standing argument for the clear and consistent implementation of student fees on a system-wide level (see AS-2644-04/FGA, AS-2671-04/FGA, AS-2774-06/AA , and AS-3113-13/AA/FGA, the ASCSU holds that a system-wide assessment of Student Success Fees is warranted. The assessment should be carried out in the broader context of an examination of the fiscal needs of the CSU, the anticipated levels of state funding, and the appropriate role of tuition and fees in meeting the costs of a quality education within the CSU.

Approved Unanimously– May 16, 2014



 
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