As part of the lead up to a student advisory vote next month, Cal Poly administrators hosted the first of nine forums to educate students about a proposed fee Tuesday.
The proposed Student Success Fee, which interim vice president for student affairs Preston Allen introduced to students in an email last week, is a proposed tuition increase that could come into effect as early as Fall Quarter 2012. Administrators will work throughout the coming months to educate students about the proposed fee, leading up to a vote on Feb. 29.
Associate vice provost Kimi Ikeda hosted the forum with Cal Poly budget director Victor Brancart. While presenting in front of an audience of six students, Ikeda said the money will go toward filling a $33 million budget gap created by state cuts in public education. She could not, however, project how the money will be spent.
“It doesn’t fix the problem; it helps to offset the change in state support,” Ikeda said. “That’s probably the hardest part for students — is not knowing how the money is going to be spent.”
If approved, the fee will add $160 to all students’ tuition in Fall 2012. After that, it will increase in $50 intervals to $210 in Fall 2013 and would cap at $260 in Fall 2014.
Campus administrators estimate the fee would produce approximately $14 million for the university. Ikeda said if this fee is not approved, the value of a Cal Poly education will decrease. She said programs, labs and the “Learn By Doing” philosophy would be threatened.
“If we have to cut costs, we may have to reduce the opportunity for our students,” she said.
At the forum, Ikeda spoke both about the origins and the process of the fee potentially becoming a university policy. She said declining funding from the California budget to the California State University (CSU) system forced the university to look at revenue-raising options.
The students who attended the forum raised questions at several points during Ikeda’s presentation. The majority of the questions attacked the proposed fee, though some offered alternatives to the tuition increase.
One student in attendance was biomedical engineering freshman Ethan Rieder. Rieder said he came because he wanted to learn more about the fee and ask questions about it. Though he came into the forum against it, he said he now is leaning toward voting for it.
“I have a much broader perspective of the fee now,” he said. “I came in mainly con, but I’m starting to see the benefits of possibly imposing this.”
Provost Robert Koob originally proposed the fee last fall, which led to approval by the Campus Fee Advisory Committee (CFAC). Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Kiyana Tabrizi, a political science senior, is also a member of that committee.
“We felt there was sufficient evidence and sufficient information for us to just pass it on to campus and to give the campus an opportunity to vote,” she said.
Following the CFAC approval, administrators discussed the fee with select students. Many of the students, including those in ASI, had a prior working relationship with the provost’s office.
“Instead of taking a position on the fee, we want students to speak,” Tabrizi said. “And every student will have an opportunity to speak. The president listens to the students very much, and so does our administration.”
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong is the person who will ultimately decide whether to present the proposed fee to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed. Ikeda said whatever happens in the student vote, Reed still has the ultimate authority to approve or veto the fee.
Ikeda, however, said she does not believe the fee will come into effect without student approval.
“We have never moved forward with something that the students haven’t been in favor of,” she said. “I would venture to guess that that will continue.”
But a similar situation in the CSU showed that the students might not have all the power in campus fee increases. Students at CSU Long Beach rejected a $95 per semester fee increase with approximately 60 percent of the student body voting against it in March 2009. Less than two years later, in February 2011, the CSU Long Beach university president announced a $94 per semester fee increase that the students did not have an opportunity to vote on.
If Reed approves the fee increase at Cal Poly, a committee will be selected to determine how to best spend the projected revenue. Ikeda said students will hold a majority on the committee and every college will be represented. Administration will allow ASI to determine which students will serve on the committee.
“The process of determining those students has not been determined yet,” Tabrizi said of the ASI selection process. “It’s going to be students who are educated on campus decisions and on what’s going on in the administration.”