Success fee vote gives power to the students

by Randy Wilde

As state funding for education slows to a trickle, universities such as San Diego State are digging desperately for the funds to prop up vital student programs. Students have already been asked to surrender more money for a lower-quality education. If we continue to walk down this path, this situation may push education out of reach for an even larger segment of our society.

It is now up to us, the students, to ensure we are getting the true value from our college experience. Despite these hardships, this represents an exciting opportunity for us to take the lead role in determining how to conduct education at SDSU.

The new Student Success Fee individually for the Colleges of Sciences, Engineering and Business Administration, aims to provide exactly the kind of programs that should be on the top of SDSU’s priority list. Services such as internships, mentorships, speakers and career guidance help students gain meaningful experience and opportunities to find a career after graduation.

“We could provide a minimal core curriculum that would allow students to graduate, but there is a lot more to being a success after graduation than simply having a degree,” Stanley Maloy, the College of Sciences dean, said.

In an ultra-competitive job market, “This fee would ensure that students get these services and that their degree from SDSU is a conduit to a good career,” Maloy said.

Normally, I would hesitate to support any added pressure to the steadily building financial burden placed on SDSU students, even if it would fund worthy programs. My immediate knee-jerk reaction to the idea of asking even more from students at a time like this was disbelief. But after finding out how involved students have been in shaping the proposed fee every step of the way, it has become much harder to oppose.

A group of SDSU students and deans traveled to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo last spring to learn about a very similar and incredibly popular Excellence Fee. Inspired, the deans and students conducted focus groups and student opinion surveys at SDSU.

If their referendum passes, students elected through the colleges’ student councils will also dominate the committees in charge of allocating funding.

The proposal on the referendum notice that appeared in The Daily Aztec was prepared with loads of student input. Better yet, the examples of possible programs listed on it were the most highly supported ideas on the student surveys.

With all of the facts, it becomes quite obvious this is not a draconian measure being forced upon students by “the man.” Rather, it’s a measure that could potentially give students a larger role in their educations.

However, this opportunity for more student control comes with the responsibility to use it wisely. If approved, the increase in fees would be $250 per semester by 2013, raising millions of dollars annually. Along with the significant financial burden it places on individual students, so much funding demands incredibly responsible management.

As the College Councils Charters of the Associated Students would be the bodies’ dominating fund management, they would have to adopt the responsibility to prevent any wasteful spending, corruption or inefficiencies. Student participation must increase with this added power. To manage the funds according to student needs and desires, we need true participatory democracy at all levels of student government.

Concerned students must now adopt a watchdog mentality to prevent mismanagement and maximize added value. If approved by the students, implementation must be examined closely to ensure students are getting their money’s worth.

Whether or not the Student Success Fee is voted in, the level of student involvement in shaping the proposals exposes the opportunity within this crisis. Voting will take place March 9 and 10 for students in the participating colleges.

Do some digging and get involved in the process. It’s time for students to take the reins.

—Randy Wilde is an international security and conflict resolution junior.

— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.