Cal Poly students voted in favor of the proposed Student Success Fee yesterday, but the results were close. Of the 7,622 student who voted, 56.93 percent voted in favor and 43.07 percent voted against.
Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president Kiyana Tabrizi said she was happy with the voter turnout, which at approximately 41 percent had a larger percentage of participation than the record-breaking ASI elections last year. At that time, 37 percent of the student body voted.
“This was one of the toughest decisions Cal Poly has been faced with in a long time,” she said. “It was important for the administration to hear our voice.”
The administration might not hear the students’ voice, though, if the vote plays out anything like the vote to increase College Based Fees in 2009.
Forty-eight percent of the student body voted at that time, and of those, 78 percent voted in favor of the fee increase. California State University (CSU) Chancellor Charles Reed shot that fee increase down, though.
The Student Success Fee vote, in the end, is an advisory vote — a fact that Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong reminded students about in an email to the student body last night. He referred to the results as “just one of several parts of the consultative process.”
Even if Armstrong choses to submit the proposal to Reed, it will then be up to Reed to approve or veto the fee. Reed has the final say.
“He denied our last one,” associate vice provost Kimi Ikeda said at the Feb. 28 Student Success Fee forum. “He’s approved this fee on other campuses, but we haven’t been able to get him to say he’ll go one way or another on this one.”
Armstrong said in late January he feels the fee is reasonable, although if students are overwhelmingly against it, he may not recommend it to the Chancellor.
“If the student voice is loud and clear — in all the different ways we’re looking at this — that we don’t believe this is a good idea, that would be extremely difficult (to recommend to the Chancellor),” Armstrong said.
Armstrong and Reed are both in Washington D.C. until Friday afternoon, speaking with legislators. There are no plans for them to have a meeting specific to the Student Success Fee, Armstrong’s chief of staff, Betsy Kinsley said.
Armstrong did, however, seem to be pleased with the students’ decision in an email he sent campus-wide regarding the results of the vote.
“The advisory vote and the formal endorsements are strong reminders of what I have come to know about Cal Poly students: You demand excellence and recognize the value of your Cal Poly degree,” he wrote in the email.
Armstrong said he needs to review the results further, as well as the 32 formal endorsements he received from student groups (only one group opposed the fee). He will make his announcement on his decision within the next week.
Tabrizi was also hesitant to say what this means for students as of now.
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” she said.
Business administration and graphic communication senior Chaz Daum said the waiting portion of the voting process will most likely result in its approval — something she is against.
“I’m paying my way through school and I can already barely afford college,” she said. “(The state) said they will offset what we can’t afford with financial aid, but not all of that aid is free. I will be in debt for years once I graduate, and this fee will add to that debt for other students who are paying their way through school.”
She said increasing fees makes college as a whole less accessible for middle class students, but at the same time, it appears to be a result of the current financial situations facing Cal Poly.
“Armstrong is in a triage situation,” Daum said. “We have to do the best with what we can right now, but not everyone is going to agree with it.”
If approved by the Chancellor, the Student Success Fee would begin in Fall 2012 at $160 and increase each year until it reached $260 in 2014. It is expected to bring in $14 million by its third year if implemented.
Sean McMinn and Karlee Prazak contributed to this article.