Word from the wise on the student success fee

by Madison Hopkins

With the newly proposed Student Success Fee up for debate at informational forums throughout the month, The Aztec decided to do some investigating into other universities that have gone through the same process. California State University, San Marcos recently passed its own Student Success Fee after going through an alternative consultation process last spring. We spoke with the editor in chief of the university’s student-run newspaper, the Cougar Chronicle, Katlin Sweeney and the Photo and Design Editor, Anne Hall, in a phone interview about the issue.

Madison Hopkins: First thing is, I know CSU San Marcos also went through an alternative consultation process to consult students regarding the fee. Would you mind explaining what that process was like?

Katlin Sweeney: Sure. Basically, my understanding is that the Student Success Fee was proposed to the student body and what they decided to do was to offer forums to try and give students an opportunity to get more information about it. That way, they could make an informed decision about whether they were going to vote for or against it.

I personally did not attend any of the forums, but based on the information I’ve gotten from other people that have gone to them, it sounds like they were very geared toward the direction of the school and they didn’t necessarily address all of the things that were going to come into play after the fact.

Anne Hall: I did attend the student forums and I did a lot of research for the newspaper in regards to the Student Success Fee being implemented for the school. The student forums pitched it to the students as that the … fees have already been implemented in various other universities and were considered to be successful. They didn’t explain how in any way and they didn’t explain why those other universities had implemented Student Success Fees.

When I researched further, I found out that the open forums were actually a ploy for the campus to allow students to feel like they had an opportunity to voice their opinions, when in all reality it was an option for the campus that was an alternative to just making the decision solely on their own and just tasking the decision by themselves without having to have a vote. Because if it wasn’t a vote, then it was only politically appropriate to have the open forums. If it was voted on by the students, it would have been voted against by the majority. But because they went by the open forum it was still in the favor of the school’s decision, despite the students and the faculty and the staff that voiced against implementing the fee.

MH: So you don’t feel that the forums accurately reflected the voice of the student body or really had much say in the actual decision-making process?

AH: Correct. If you actually look at the evidence, everything is public record and in writing. The majority of the population’s opinion on our campus was against the Student Success Fee for numerous reasons. A majority of the people on campus felt that the fee’s purpose was unnecessary for numerous reasons. It was pretty much a beautification plan established to just draw more attention and more vendors and draw financial backers to come on campus to build more facilities, and basically putting it on the expense of the students.

MH: So where did the funds received by this fee go to?

AH: Well, there’s various places that the Student Success Fee is going toward, and we have created an organization that … validate and vote amongst each other where these funds go. Some of it goes to the science department, some of it goes to the library, and a giant portion of it went to building. It went toward construction and development on campus. They kept trying to promote it as something that would help funding to buy new computers and equipment for new departments like the school of business and the science department.

KS: The two areas that have been the most publicized that it’s gone into has been the extension of library hours … and also the implementation of more class sections.

AH: Another thing was that everything they were claiming was going to benefit somehow in the Student Success Fee should have been something that they should have lobbied to gain more funding from the state. As a Cal State, they should have been relying on state funds for all this stuff. And they were arguing why the state wasn’t going to provide those funds but they weren’t doing anything to lobby proving the necessity. So rather than putting in the real work, they just put it on the students.

MH: How do you feel the reaction has been on campus since the implementation of the fee this year?

AH: I did an article on it back in December… One of the things that I had wanted to do was to look at the way people had responded it, but also to look at the awareness of it. I polled I think 113 people and I basically had a very easy survey of five questions where I ask, “What do you think of the Student Success Fee? Are you aware of the changes that have been made?” For the most part I felt that most people were not even aware that the fee had passed and those that were aware were not in favor of it.

MH: Has the administration responded to any of these concerns from the students?

AH: Not particularly. I mean, I had spoken with someone who is kind of on the administrative side of things recently about it, and they were happy with the article in the sense that they were aware that they needed to publicize more where the money was going. But in response to the negativity, they were kind of just dismissive about it … they kind of have the mentality that it has already been passed, and it’s already been slotted to increase tuition prices until 2017. So there was kind of the statement on their side of things to try and encourage people to explain to people that it is a permanent situation, versus getting them to feel positively about it. I think on the administrative side they think that students are never going to want to pay more money so they are kind of dismissive of that, if that makes sense.

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