To address years of budget shortfalls and a consistent shortage of state funding, Cal State Fullerton recently proposed a mandatory $240.50 fee to be used for direct service to students.
The Student Success Initiative proposal was publicly unveiled last week with the launch of a new website and a meeting with the baseball team, which was the first of many meetings with students that will influence how CSUF will spend what is projected to be an additional $9.2 million per semester.
CSUF currently receives the least amount of funding per student in the 23-campus California State University and is ranked 21st in Category II funds—mandatory fees paid to the university by students, according to the Division of Administration and Finance.
“The initiative allows CSUF to take steps to become the university it aspires to be,” said Jeffrey Cook, chief communications officer. “In lieu of any other dynamics changing, the institution needs to take control of its own future.”
The student body will not directly vote on the fee. Rather, the university will embark on an “alternative consultation process” to gather input on the biggest issues students face and will spend the money based on the results.
A preliminary list of how to spend revenue from the proposed fee was created during the fall 2013 semester by the student-majority Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC).
The recommendations as they stand would require a new $240.50 mandatory fee per semester to take effect gradually over the next three years.
On-campus parking, while consistently a top issue among students, is absent from the list because the Student Success Initiative falls under Category II fees, which cannot fund optional services such as parking.
The advisory committee will use this list of initial recommendations created by the SFAC as a jumping-off point.
In the coming weeks, members of the SFAC will work with students, through meeting with student organizations and hosting open forums, pare down, adjust, expand or eliminate entirely if students say they do not want a new fee, said Lea Jarnagin, Ed.D., the associate vice president for student affairs.
“It allows us to start from a place of saying, ‘This is what we’re proposing,’ and end at a place that’s slightly different, maybe a lot different, maybe not at all (different), but the students get to form it along the way,” Jarnagin said.
Jarnagin said the university has accurate projections regarding costs for the improvements in the initiative, such as advising and library hours.
“It’s our responsibility to know what it costs to deliver education to students,” Jarnagin said. “This is all very much data-driven; there’s no guessing going on.”
Six open forums, including two at the Irvine Campus, will be held in February.
The open forums will begin with a 20 to 30 minute presentation, followed by a Q-and-A session. Students are invited to share their own ideas and priorities through the open forums and by taking surveys online at Success.Fullerton.edu.
Jarnagin and Dean of Students Tonantzin Oseguera will be meeting with 50 student organizations and taking part in the open forums.
“If, overwhelmingly, we get surveys that say, ‘No, I don’t want to pay for that fee,’ … the students have said no and so we need to go back and figure out (something else),” Oseguera said. “And then much tougher conversations begin.”
The system is designed to allow students to take the online survey multiple times, in case they change their mind, but only the most recent one will be taken into account.
Associated Students Inc. President Rohullah Latif serves on the advisory committee and stressed that students have the power to express what improvements are a priority for them.
“They have a chance to make a difference,” he said. “We’re going to be working side-by-side with the university to make sure that they know when these workshops are and to make sure they attend them.”
Oseguera emphasized how quickly students would be able to see the benefits on campus if the fee were approved.
“You will see this fee—if it gets implemented, it starts in the fall—you will see things occur in the fall,” Oseguera said. “You will see classrooms being upgraded, you will see the effects of having more advisors, you’ll see some of those changes.”
Eight other CSU campuses have enacted similar fees. Cal State Long Beach’s fee, the Student Excellence Fund, was approved as $94 to support a wide variety of issues, including advising and classroom technology. In January, the fee increased to $173 per semester, according to CSULB.
The next meeting of the Student Fee Advisory Committee is scheduled for Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in Langsdorf Hall 702, where they will have a progress update on the initiative and invite members who have attended the forums to share their thoughts.
After these meetings and forums, the SFAC will reconvene on Feb. 14 to revise its recommendations based on student input and send them to President Mildred García, who can make adjustments before sending the proposal to CSU Chancellor Timothy White.