President Jeffrey Armstrong approved a resolution to support the increase of student health fees by $99 per quarter. The fee will not affect current Cal Poly students’ tuition, but will apply to newly admitted students beginning Fall 2018. The fee was one of two proposed adjustments; the other proposed a $114 increase per quarter.
According to a campuswide email from Armstrong, the funds generated by the fee will provide additional health and counseling providers to help students access critical services more quickly and conveniently.
According to Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey, even though current students won’t pay for the added services, they will still benefit from them.
“The fee adjustment affects every student, the outcome of it. Because we will start to hire folks,” Humphrey said. “Now that we’ve been given permission by the President to proceed, we will begin to post positions for additional medical and mental health providers to start next fall on campus.”
The decision to choose the $99 option was reached after the President’s Office received feedback about the proposals from the campus community.
Associated Students Inc. (ASI) President Riley Nilsen said the fee increase will benefit students with needed services.
“I definitely think the services at the Health Center need to be changed and be strong. I’m also a huge advocate for mental health and I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of this fee increase,” Nielsen said. “There are going to be more services provided for students, more counseling opportunities, more available appointments. If you want to be seen that day you’ll be able to.”
The decrease in service quality from the Health Center has to do with a decrease in Health Center staff while the student population increases. According to Humphrey, the past couple of years the cost of hiring and employing a medical professional has risen. Which means, once a Health Center employee retires Cal Poly is unable to find someone to fill their position at the same cost.
Political science senior and Cal Poly Students for Quality Education organizer Mick Bruckner opposed the fee increase and said Cal Poly administration should not rely on students for funding.
“Although funding may be scarce in terms of dollars coming from the state legislature, our administration needs to do a better job at taking a stand and letting our lawmakers know that student’s pockets cannot be the go-to source for all funding gaps,” Bruckner said in a statement to Mustang News.
Bruckner said asking students to fund added mental health services hurts those who need them the most.
“The university is asking its students to bankroll services that will ultimately not help the students who are suffering the most, low to middle income students who need weekly mental health care on a long-term basis,” Bruckner said.
Bruckner also said that in a state audit of the California State University (CSU) system, Cal Poly was found to have unjustifiably given raises to administrators. This audit detailed the CSU systems finances from the 2007-08 fiscal year to the 2015-16 fiscal year.
“In terms of alternative funding sources, our campus was recently singled out by the State Auditor for giving raises to managers without justification,” Bruckner said. “Meanwhile, CSU executives continue to give themselves pay rises while proposing annual tuition increases.”
The university addressed concerns over the added financial burden to incoming students, as thirty percent of the money from the increased health fee will fund waiving or decreasing the fees for students who lack the financial resources to pay for it themselves.
According to a press release from the university, two-thirds of Cal Poly students used the Health Center during the 2016-17 academic year, a rate above the national average.
Humphrey said this is because Cal Poly students rely on their health center more than other CSU students do, because of the large number Cal Poly students come from various places in California. He said at other CSUs, many students live locally and use their local physicians rather than relying on their campus health center.
According to Humphrey, new Health Center staff will be starting in Fall 2018, but all changes will fully take effect in the next four years.
For more information about the health fee increase, visit https://chw.calpoly.edu/healthfee.