Student Success Fee to open more classes, fund diversity efforts

(Stock photo)

Sean McMinn

Unless you’ve been checking the Cal Poly Administration and Finance website, you probably didn’t know that the Student Success Fee Allocation Advisory Committee sent a final recommendation to University President Jeffrey Armstrong in January — effectively deciding how the $210 quarterly fee will be spent next year.

More than $11 million in spending is listed on the website. It is drawn from the student-driven Student Success Fee, which will enter its second year next fall.

The budget came from the Student Success Fee Allocation Advisory Committee, led by Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Katie Morrow and Cal Poly chief financial officer Larry Kelley. The committee submitted the proposal to Armstrong in late January and was approved one month later.

Aside from making the plan available online, ASI has not done outreach to show how the fee — approved by students in 2012 on the condition that spending be student-driven — will be spent, said Morrow, a sociology senior. The focus instead is educating next year’s members of the advisory committee, and creating a video to teach future students about the fee and its purpose.

“We can do better,” Morrow said of informing students how the fee will be spent. “But the students wanted to focus right now on working on training. We have an idea of who next year’s Student Success Fee representatives will be, and we wanted to provide the best training as possible. In my mind, the best way to serve the students is to train the people who will be allocating it on next year’s committee.”

More than $7 million will be spent to open more classes, but it represents a smaller portion of the budget than went toward adding classes this year.

This past year, 67.4 percent of Student Success Fee money went to classes; next year, it will be 64.3 percent. It is the largest percentage change in next year’s budget.

“The committee recognized that having classes and labs are critically important to student success,” Kelley wrote in an email. “They also recognized that many other functions contribute to that success. Their recommended allocations reflected the importance of the many functions that support student success.”

Additionally, facilities might not be able to hold more sections of classes during normal class hours, said Kimi Ikeda, associate vice provost.

The second-largest item in the budget is Cal Poly’s Academic Success Center, which will receive $539,220. Its funding more than doubled, despite having not used all its money from last year, Morrow said.

The Academic Success Center will be a “one-stop shop” for academic advising needs on campus — administrators plan to have it hire student mentors, house academic advisers and provide help for students who want to change majors.

In addition to supporting academics, nearly 10 percent of the budget — or approximately $1 million — will be spent on diversity and inclusivity efforts. It includes $221,000 going toward the MultiCultural, PRIDE and Gender Equity centers. Morrow said there is a need on campus to make Cal Poly more welcoming to minority groups.

“I think that we really need to be proactive about it right now,” Morrow said of diversity and inclusivity at Cal Poly. “There’s been times in the past where we may have been reactive to issues diversity, not having the climate we need to have.”

The allocation committee also removed all Student Success Fee funding previously directed toward Cal Poly athletics. Committee member and political science senior Aaron Borgeson said students were unhappy with the $10,000 athletics received this past year, and members unanimously decided it was unfair to continue the funding.

Kelley, who worked with the students on this year’s committee, said his top priority entering the allocation process was to “be sure the student voice is heard.” Kelley will retire in June, and is expected to be replaced by Stan Nosek, a former chancellor of administration at University of California, Davis. Nosek will serve until a permanent hire is named toward the end of 2013, according to a university press release.

Cal Poly implemented the Student Success Fee in Fall 2012 because of a financial hole that led to what Ikeda called “the most volatile, unpredictable environment” ever at Cal Poly.

In a special advisory vote, 57 percent of student voters supported the fee, which began at $160 quarterly this past fall. It will rise to $210 per quarter in Fall 2013 and will be fully implemented at $260 per quarter in Fall 2014.

During the vote, students also ranked how they wanted to see the fee spent: opening up classes received the most support, followed by Learn by Doing opportunities.

The committee, which is mandated each year to advise Armstrong how to spend the Student Success Fee, consists of seven students and six Cal Poly employees. Morrow said the committee members used priorities from the vote to help their decisions, as well as conversations with student groups.

ASI President-elect and agricultural business junior Jason Colombini will take Morrow’s seat as co-chair of the committee next year. Colombini beat three contenders for office this past month and ran his campaign largely on promises of accessibility and transparency.

In an interview Monday, Colombini promised to improve the outreach ASI does after allocating Student Success Fee funds, but said he doesn’t have any definite plans as to how he wants to spend the money.

“I want to be as transparent as possible, definitely not moving fast,” he said. “Let’s go a little longer, never rushing yourself, especially with something as big as this.”

Colombini said he will follow precedent and nominate the top vote-earners from each college in the Board of Directors to serve on the allocation advisory committee.

If there are no changes before next year’s allocation process begins, the students on the committee will be: Tatiana Prestininzi (who served on the committee this year), Rachel Kramer (a current representative in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design), Emily Mallett (a current representative in the Orfalea College of Business), Connor Paquin (a current representative in the College of Engineering), Hannah Brozek (who will be in her first year on the Board of Directors in the College of Liberal Arts) and Derek Majewski (a veteran College of Math and Science Board of Directors member who Colombini said he is considering for chief of staff, which would remove him from the allocation committee).

  • AndyRYoung

    Now that we know what’s it’s for, can we have another informed vote?