Greg Lewis, a sociology major at CSU Dominguez Hills, only has to complete 18 units to get his degree. He said he could probably get it done in one semester and even though it would be a lot more work, he would be that much closer to the workforce and fulfilling his goals.
New fees being considered by the CSU, however, may complicate Lewis’ graduation plan.
One of three proposed tuition fees to be considered at the CSU board of trustees meeting on Nov. 13-14, called the “third-tier” fee, will penalize students taking more than 16 units by charging an extra $200 per unit.
Although the CSU has described the fee as creating opportunities for more students to get classes, Lewis points to his own example and disagrees. He says he has two choices: pay $400 more now to graduate faster, or enroll an additional term.
It is a balancing act he feels is unacceptable.
“These fees are punishing and driving students away instead of helping them graduate,” he said.
Lewis related his experience during a press teleconference Monday held by the Students for Quality Education. Besides voicing opposition of the proposed fees, the organization also released preliminary results from a student survey conducted on the fees.
The CSU board has proposed three fees to modify student behavior and encourage a faster route to graduation. Beyond the third-tier fee, a “graduation incentive” fee would add $372 per unit beyond 150 and a “course repeat” fee that would tack on $100 per unit for any repeated courses.
These fees were introduced at the CSU’s September meeting. They were not approved, but it was proposed that these fees be implemented regardless of Proposition 30’s success.
Natalie Dorado, an economics major at CSU San Bernardino and organizer for SQE, said the organization is opposed to the fees because they would create more obstacles for students to graduate and it opposes the CSU’s mission.
“It ignores the diversity, humanity and complexity of CSU students,” she said.
Preliminary results from SQE’s “Survey on CSU Students’ Obstacles To Graduating” were also announced at the meeting.
More than 2,400 student surveys have been tallied from all 23 CSU campuses, but representatives said there are at least 1,000 that still need to be tallied.
SQE members developed the questions and then distributed them between Oct. 22 and Nov. 9 both online and in paper form through branch chapters. Each survey featured information on each of the fees and offered fill-in sections so students could volunteer their own opinions.
“We wanted to know what’s really going on and no information was available on what obstacles students were facing,” Dorado said. “We talk to our friends and know people aren’t staying in classes just to take up resources.”
Of the survey results so far, 60 percent of students said the fees will make it more difficult to graduate and will increase their student loans.
Beyond being economically difficult for students, the fees may be misdirected. Although the intention is to penalize students from taking courses they do not need, Lewis said there are “a plethora of reasons” for students to take on extra units and this fee will effect all of them.
“It’s too much of an umbrella fee,” said Lewis. “If you want to target those students, I want to say there should be more criteria for that.”
Matthew Delgado, CSUN student and SQE member, said he sometimes has to take on extra classes in other areas of study to qualify for financial aid because relevant classes are not available.
“It’s absurd,” he said. “We can’t get the classes we need. I think that’s CSUN’s No. 1 problem.”
Echoing similar opinions as presented in a recent editorial by the Sacramento Bee, the SQE representatives recommended the CSU table the discussion for the future, present more research on the selection of fees and leave the decision to the next chancellor.
“Students aren’t gaming the system, they are trying to graduate,“ said Dorado. “We need solutions that would help, not punish, students.”