Cal Poly students will be charged a new $2 fee if they do not opt out of the Student Involvement Representation Fee (SIRF) by Friday, Oct. 9. Another $2 charge with a similar opt-out choice will be administered before the start of spring quarter.
Why are students paying?
The fee is being implemented to shift the California State Student Association (CSSA) funding revenue model to be directly sourced by students, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President and agricultural business senior Owen Schwaegerle said at the ASI Board of Directors meeting on Sept. 30.
“Students will be defaulted into paying a fee, which they have the opportunity to opt of by Oct. 9,” Schwaegerle said. “This fee will effectively triple the CSSA budget.”
SIRF will be fee implemented twice an academic year, during fall and spring quarter. The last day to opt out is the term’s census date, which for this quarter is Oct. 9. The fee will be assessed during the same time as registration and tuition fees.
The CSSA is the official organization of the 23 California State University (CSU) campuses. It is made up of elected student leaders from each campus to represent students to the CSU and to the state and federal government. By participating in CSSA, students are actively participating in the decisions that shape their education.
How is the fee used?
SIRF will be used to support the student leadership, involvement, governance and advocacy programs managed by the CSSA.
CSSA is an independent nonprofit organization governed by Associated Student leaders. Therefore, the use of this fee will always be decided by students. Any money generated from the fee will be used to fund activities of CSSA, which will facilitate higher education and policy development at the system, state and national levels, CSSA Executive Director Miles Nevin said.
“The fee will replace of the former funding revenue sources, solely funding support for all our operations and overhead it takes to run our Sacramento and Long Beach offices,” Nevin said. “The money will be used to support programs and personnel and extends to lobbying and student committees.”
How will this affect students?
The funds gained from this fee will not necessarily affect individual students or Cal Poly, but will benefit the CSU system as a whole, ASI Chief of Staff Jonathan Lampkin said.
“The fee won’t be supporting anything, strictly speaking, at Cal Poly, rather it will be support (for) CSSA for more full-time staff, better scholarships for CSSA leaders, more lobbying and advocacy trips,” Lampkin said. “Anything along those lines to improve CSSA exceptionally.”
However, it will provide students with a membership in CSSA, which means that they have the ability to become a representative or officer of CSSA through the requirements of ASI, according to the CSSA website.
“If you pay your $2, you are getting a membership within CSSA,” Lampkin said. “Does that membership do much for you? Questionable.”
How can students opt out?
To avoid paying the fee, students can log into their MyCalPoly portal and access the Student Center. Then, scroll to “Finances” and the “other financial” drop-down option, which leads to “account activity.” Once you are on this page, an opt-out icon will be appear on the right of the $2 charge titled “Student Rep Fee SIRF.” Another icon will be on the left with additional information.
For future quarters, the last day to opt out will be published in fee schedules at fees.calpoly.edu and in the “Important Financial Dates” portlet on the “Money Matters” tab of the student’s portal. If students choose to opt out, they must do so prior to every fall and spring quarter.
Why has this system changed?
SIRF was put into effect this year because it was voted on by the Board of Trustees on Jan. 28. Now, the CSSA revenue funding structure will be based upon SIRF, which will create more opportunities for the organization, Nevin said.
“The real purpose behind the funding model change was to create a more stable student association, where we could stabilize the budget and create a funding structure that was predictable that could operate on a consistent basis,” Nevin said. “Since we traditionally received funding from the Chancellor’s Office, we can now be more independent and expand the organization so that we can have more student involvement.”
In past years, revenue was generated by the CSU Chancellor’s Office and participating CSU campuses. Previously, campuses were able to opt out as a whole, but now students who choose to opt out must do so individually.
Historically, Cal Poly chose to opt out of SIRF as a campus, Lampkin said. When the new funding structure for CSSA was introduced, Cal Poly voted against it along with four other CSU campuses.
“The current administration doesn’t have a pro or con view in a strict sense on the fee,” Lampkin said. “We want to make sure that students are making an informed decision; you might pay for the fee without ever hearing about it. We believe that consent can only happen if an individual is aware of the situation.”
Former ASI president Joi Sullivan was at the Board of Trustees meeting and spoke out against the fee.
“The biggest issue with the fee is that we talk a lot about student involvement in decision making, Cal Poly especially,” Sullivan said. “Granted, $4 is not a big fee — it’s not about the dollar amount but about the philosophy of students being involved.”