Less than three years after voting to increase College Based Fees, Cal Poly students will once again be asked to advise the university president on a school-wide tuition increase come Wednesday.
The Student Success Fee brings up uncanny similarities to a proposed fee increase in 2009 that was approved by student voters but shot down by California State University (CSU) Chancellor Charles Reed. That proposed increase planned to raise the College Based Fees to $362 per quarter for full-time students.
“We saw that budget cuts were not a one-year thing and were the future of higher education,” said Marlize van Romburgh, editor-in-chief of the Mustang Daily in 2009. “As much as it sucks, students just kind of had to bite the bullet and deal with it.”
Van Romburgh said there was a strong push from former provost Robert Koob in 2009 that students needed to pay more to ensure Cal Poly remained at the top of the CSU system.
“Generally, students were buying into the argument from the administrators that if you want to go to Cal Poly — the gem of the CSU system — you have to pay more,” van Romburgh said.
As they did in 2009, Cal Poly administrators have chosen not to take an official university stance on the Student Success Fee. But as it was during the College Based Fee vote, it is no secret that those higher up in the university are proponents of the proposed tuition increase.
“Let’s lay out the pros and cons, and let’s see what people think,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said in the month leading up to the student vote. “Let’s see what students think. I want to hear what the students have to say.”
Armstrong, who has stayed primarily out of the public eye during discussion of the fee, voiced his approval on the Student Success Fee in an interview late last month. And associate vice provost Kimi Ikeda, who has been presenting to students and staff on the Student Success Fee throughout the month of February, has repeatedly said she thinks the fee is necessary to preserve what makes Cal Poly “special.”
During the 2009 advisory vote, former Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president Angela Kramer publicly stated she would vote against the increase to College Based Fees. In contrast, current ASI President Kiyana Tabrizi held firm in not publicly declaring her stance on the Student Success Fee. Tabrizi said her primary goal is to ensure students are objectively educated about the fee before Wednesday’s vote.
“Apathetic voters might go and vote on Feb. 29,” Tabrizi said. “But I don’t want them to go and vote because all they see is a fee, and that they’ll be paying more, and they’re like ‘Wow, life’s pretty good right now. Why do I need to be paying more?’ Administration’s been doing so much to offset these cuts that though life’s good now, it’s going to change.”
Tabrizi and a task force established in February attempted to reach students throughout the month to spread information about the fee. She said they have worked during their meetings on how to stay objective despite their personal feelings on the Student Success Fee.
“We even brainstormed a con list of the fee,” she said, “so we can make sure that when we present, we present like (Ikeda) does. We present a middle of the road, factual conversation.”
Several of the university college deans have come out in support of the fee, including College of Science and Mathematics dean Phil Bailey, who Ikeda said had reached thousands of students in the month of February. The Orfalea College of Business also supports the Student Success Fee and posted advertisements around the college urging students to vote in favor of it.
Since Armstrong has the final say on whether to recommend the tuition increase to Reed, his view on the proposed tuition increase is especially important. Armstrong and Reed have plans to be in Washington, D.C. speaking with legislators the day after the student advisory vote, and Ikeda said Cal Poly is hopeful that the two will make a decision there. This could be the first time in Armstrong’s presidency where he recommends a fee increase to Reed — former President Warren Baker made the 2009 College Based Fee proposal. Regardless, the university expects to announce the results of the student vote Thursday afternoon.
So far, Reed has not given any indication of what he plans to do if a recommendation comes from Armstrong. CSU spokesperson Liz Chapin said unlike in 2009, the option of a tuition increase is not off the table for the chancellor.
“This time, we know how bad it is,” Chapin said. “We have the flat budget and an additional trigger cut.”
But Ikeda sees the situation differently. She said in the more than 20 years she has worked at Cal Poly, she never saw budget situation as bad as what the university faces today.
“This is the most volatile, unpredictable environment we’ve ever been in,” Ikeda said. “Things are starting to fall apart we have no control over.”
Students can vote on the fee from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on their My Cal Poly Portal Wednesday. Cal Poly public relations team leader Stacia Momburg said results will be available Thursday afternoon.