Administrators plan fee’s implementation

by Luke Henning

Co-authored by Luke Henning, assistant news editor

San Diego State administrators and faculty are tasked with sorting out the implementation of the new Student Success Fee, which is slated to take effect in the Fall 2014 semester with a $50 mandatory tuition increase.

Ninety percent of the fee will be used to expand class sections and hire new faculty members. Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathy LaMaster, who leads the fee planning efforts, estimates the first group of 35 permanent faculty probably won’t be hired until the end of the first year. Despite the delay, 90 new course sections are guaranteed, with lecturers filling in for professors until the hiring process is complete, LaMaster said.

Adding more permanent faculty will give students an opportunity for more one-on-one interactions with professors, ensuring higher rates of academic success, LaMaster said.

“We chose to target the fee at hiring tenured track professors because the students were overwhelmingly in support of more permanent faculty,” LaMaster said. “More specifically, they said that tenured track professors are an important part of a university culture because they have more time to establish meaningful relationships with students.”

The $200 fee will culminate during a four-year period, with a $50 increase each semester, reaching the full amount in 2018. There will also be a $25 fee per summer term, which will start in Summer 2015. The fee will increase an additional $25 per summer term until 2018, where it will reach a total amount of $100.

After the fee reaches $200 per semester it’s planned to increase with inflation in order to maintain the salaries of the newly hired faculty. LaMaster said this increase will be relatively minimal. In the first year after full implementation, the fee is expected to increase $6 based on the Higher Education Price Index.

LaMaster said the fee is being implemented in four years because Prop 30 will no longer guarantee a set amount of funding in the California State University system in 2018.

“The fee works as insurance that we will always have those 80 faculty despite what the CSU system might throw at us budget-wise,” she said.

Director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships Rose Pasenelli said this is the first fee process the Campus Fee Advisory Committee has included her in.

“I worked with CFAC from the beginning to make sure that financial aid would cover any increase they passed,” Pasenelli said. “I attended every forum and heard what students had to say.”

According to Pasenelli the additional cost of the fee will be covered by Pell Grants and CSU grants for low-income students. For the rest of the student body, Pasenelli said scholarships, loans and work-study programs could serve as alternative ways to cover the cost of the fee.

“I think many of the students were upset were angry because they didn’t know that there other options available to them,” Pasenelli said.

The Office of Financial Aid is working in conjunction with Student Affairs to create a hardship exemption that would exempt certain students from the fee if they can prove that the fee would overburden them to the point that they had to leave SDSU.

“The last thing we want is for students to leave because of a fee that is supposed to better their education,” Pasenelli said.

Though the details of this exemption haven’t been fleshed out, Pasenelli said she and Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Rivera want the exemption to include an appeals process that allows students to demonstrate their need. She said one of her main goals for the design of this process is to make it simple and accessible to students.

“If the student is already experiencing hardship from the fee increase, we don’t want to overburden them further with complex websites and paperwork,” Pasenelli said. “That would defeat the whole purpose of the hardship exemption.”

According to Pasenelli, the criteria for the exemption application haven’t been developed yet, but the details will be worked out by July, in time for student’s fee payments for the fall semester. She said it wouldn’t be implemented until they get an approved budget for this upcoming year.

Pasenelli also referred to a statewide Middle Class Scholarship, which starts in the 2014-15 academic year. The scholarship will give CSU or University of California undergraduates with family incomes up to $150,000 aid to combat the cost of education, according to the California Student Aid Commission website.

LaMaster said since the fee has been passed, any additional changes will have to be subjected to student feedback, either through referendum or an alternative consultation process.