Capitol Alert

CSU grants students a vote on new ‘success fees’ – then OKs unrelated fee

Sacramento State junior Dylan Glass takes a break between classes on Sept. 22.
Sacramento State junior Dylan Glass takes a break between classes on Sept. 22. aseng@sacbee.com

Addressing criticisms that a recent spate of campus “success fees” circumvented student input and a systemwide tuition freeze, the California State University board of trustees on Wednesday adopted a requirement that students vote to approve the charges.

The trustees followed by approving an unrelated fee to fund the group that advocates for CSU students, over the objections of some representatives who argued that it contradicted the spirit of the policy change.

Last year, controversy swelled around the success fees, which run several hundred dollars per semester – on top of tuition – to hire faculty, add course sections, update technology and fund other initiatives aimed at boosting degree completion. Students began raising increasingly vocal objections over a lack of consultation in implementing the fees, now in place at a dozen of CSU’s 23 campuses, and how the revenue they generated was being used.

California State University, Sacramento, students do not pay success fees.

In June, CSU placed an 18-month moratorium on new success fees, and pledged to craft a standard universitywide approach.

The policy, unanimously approved on Wednesday, will require that any new success fees be approved by a student vote, the campus president and the CSU chancellor, with additional consultation if any of the money goes to direct instruction usually covered by tuition.

Students will also be able to rescind new fees after six years. Current success fees will be retained and eligible for reconsideration in 2021.

Chancellor Timothy P. White called it a “thoughtful response” to student concerns that will “protect and enable our campuses.”

A small opt-out fee to create a steady funding stream for the California State Student Association generated more pushback, but was ultimately approved overwhelmingly by the trustees.

The $2-per-semester charge will replace an appropriation from the chancellor’s office and voluntary contributions from campus student governments. If all of CSU’s approximately 447,000 students were to pay the fee each semester, it would generate almost $1.8 million.

Many campus representatives urged the trustees to support the fee for the student association, which lobbies in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento.

“It really puts the power back into the hands of individual students whether they choose to invest in their present and in their futures,” student trustee Talar Alexanian said.

But several argued that its implementation lacked the same consultation and transparency as success fees.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.

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