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California university eyes $500 increase of student fees to compensate for budget deficit


Sonoma State University

Academic success for students at Sonoma State University in California is going to be a costly venture, as university officials mull a $500 increase in student fees aimed to increase students’ achievement. 

Called the Academic Success fee, university administrators are looking to pile an additional $250 per semester on top of campus fees, The Press Democrat, a local newspaper, reported. The fee hike would be implemented to compensate for a budget deficit at a university that already sees some of the highest student fees in the California State University system —  a move that has students’ tightening their already pinched belts.

“It isn’t petty money,” Pauline Meehan, a junior at Sonoma State, told The Press Democrat. “They keep raising and raising fees and we don’t see anything from it. I don’t see why they can’t make what we’re paying now work.”

Provost Andrew Rogerson said the $500 hike is in response to a decrease in state funding, as the university hopes to put the money toward hiring new teachers, increasing popular courses and helping students graduate in four years. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) proposed an increase of $142 million for the state’s university system, falling short of the $237-million request from the system’s board.

The university, though, is seeking students’ input before enacting the Academic Success fee.

“We have yet to receive a detailed plan as to what the Academic Success fee will include. Such a plan is expected from the Provost’s office in the next few weeks,” Mac Hart, president of Associated Students at Sonoma State, told The Press Democrat in an email. “In the meantime we are conducting extensive outreach throughout campus to get input from students as to their perspective on the issue and if a fee is the type of solution they are interested in pursuing further.”

Students at Sonoma State shell out $1,804 per year in student fees — the third highest in the state’s university system —  in addition to $5,472 in tuition for full-time undergraduate students. Including room, board and other expenses, Sonoma State students can expect to pay up to $17,000 per year, Rogerson said.

If approved, Sonoma State would join nine other California universities that collect “success fees,” including San Jose State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal State Easy Bay, CSU system spokeswoman Laurie Weidner told The Press Dispatch.

“The intent of the Student Success Fee is to provide financial support to those areas of the university where it can have the greatest impact on student retention and graduation,” Weidner said. “In some cases, the fee revenue establishes new programs of student support, while in others, revenues are allocated to provide additional support to existing programs, many of which have been severely impacted by budget shortfalls.”

For students receiving financial aid, packages are unlikely to cover the $500 increase in campus fees, director of financial aid Susan Gutierrez, told The Press Democrat, and grants from the state only cover tuition.

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