Cal State board OKs plan to limit controversial 'student success fees'

Cal State board OKs plan to limit controversial 'student success fees'
Cal State Northridge student Karen Gonzalez joins fellow CSU students demonstrating against so-called student success fees at a protest in November in Long Beach. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Cal State Board of Trustees approved a plan Wednesday to limit the use of controversial student fees -- enacted on many campuses in response to state budget cuts but criticized as a stealthy way to raise tuition.

The recommendations were presented to the Cal State Board of Trustees by a working group led by Chancellor Timothy P. White, after the state Legislature placed a moratorium on approval of new fees and ordered White to conduct a review.


Many students who addressed the board said that the controls failed to address many concerns and that current fees should be repealed.

Under the new policy, consideration of so-called student success fees will require a binding student vote after the campus undertakes a campaign to inform students about the uses, impact and costs of the proposed new charges.

Additions to fees currently in place will also require approval from a majority of students. Students may vote to rescind the fees, but only after they've been in place for six years. In addition, students must represent a majority on campus advisory committees that determine how fees will be allocated, and annual reports on fee uses must be made public.

"I believe that these recommendations put into immediate action will both protect and empower students on campuses … and provide for ongoing transparency," White said.

The fees have been enacted at a dozen of Cal State's 23 campuses and range from $162 to $830 at full implementation. The revenue has been used primarily to increase course offerings, hire faculty and advisors and expand programs that were reduced during years of state funding cuts.

But many students and others complained that the charges were unfair to those struggling financially and reneged on Gov. Jerry Brown's four-year budget deal to increase state funding for Cal State and UC in exchange for no tuition hikes.

"It's part of an overall trend to privatize higher education and push the financial burden on to students," said Cal State Dominguez Hills student Robert DeWitz .

The California State Student Assn. recently passed a resolution supporting proposals similar to those before the board.

"These echo a lot of the measures we endorsed to insure the process is student-centered," said association chairman Devon Graves, a Cal Poly Pomona senior.

The board approved the changes unanimously, with one abstention.

Twitter: @CarlaRiveraLat