Cal State students protest for rollback of ‘success fees’

Students in Long Beach protest student "success fees" at Cal State campuses.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Dozens of students rallied at a meeting of the California State University governing board Wednesday, chanting and hoisting signs that urged the chancellor and trustees to rollback “success fees” that are raising costs on many campuses.

More than 100 students marched in front of the police-guarded entrance of the chancellor’s Long Beach office shouting, “We got 99 problems and student debt is one,” and “No cuts, no fees, education should be free.”

Campuses in San Diego and Fullerton recently joined nine others in enacting the success fees to help pay for more classes, faculty hiring, counseling and other services.

The Dominguez Hills campus is considering a $280-per-semester fee that would take effect next fall if approved by a campus advisory committee and Chancellor Timothy P. White.


Many students, however, complain the success fees are shifting more costs to students for basic educational services that should be included in tuition.

“They say it’s for success, but they’re placing that success on the backs of students who are already plagued by huge debt,” said Sean Washburn, 26, a graduate student studying history at Cal State Fullerton.

Washburn addressed the trustees and also marched outside, carrying a blue sign that read: “We Demand the University for the Students.”

He said the Fullerton fee, originally set at $240.50 per semester but reduced to $181, would be an additional burden.

“I’m already $9,000 in debt and face two more semesters with this tuition hike, so that is going to climb,” Washburn said. “This is also about future students who won’t be able to bear the expense of coming to a CSU.”

Most students who addressed the board agreed with Washburn, and many held signs in the boardroom that said: “No Student Success Fees.”

However, San Diego State student Janera Montano said she supported her campus’ new fee starting out at $50 next fall and increasing to $200 per semester over the next four years.

The Spanish major said she would benefit from more faculty, and the prospect of increased mentoring.


“I would like to graduate in four years and I feel like if I have to make an investment in my education, I will,” Montano, 20, told trustees.

No trustees addressed the students’ concerns. In an interview following the meeting, White said it was valuable to listen to students with different points of view.

But he said the fees were responsive to the needs of individual campuses in a process that provided input and consultation with students.

Additional advisors and other support, he said, would help to provide students with a higher quality of education, adding, “it’s a good example of a policy in place that makes sense.”


In other board actions, trustees named Lisa A. Rossbacher as the new president of Humboldt State University. Rossbacher is currently president of Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga.

She will succeed Rollin C. Richmond, who is retiring at the end of the academic year after 12 years as president.

“The university’s unique programmatic offerings and beautiful setting draw a diverse group of students who are committed to improving themselves and the community through public service,” Rossbacher said in a statement. “HSU embraces sustainability and the environment like few other universities and I look forward to engaging all groups to achieve the university mission.”

Rossbacher previously served as a professor of geological sciences and associate vice president of academic affairs at Cal Poly Pomona. She was also a dean at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and vice president of academic affairs at Whittier College.


She earned a PhD in geological sciences from Princeton University, a master’s degree in the same field from Princeton and State University of New York at Binghamton, and a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson.

She is scheduled to assume duties in July.

Also Wednesday the leaders of the state’s three systems of higher education gave a progress report on joint efforts to streamline the transfer process, provide greater outreach to middle school students and lower costs through energy collaborations and purchase agreements.

The presentation by White, UC President Janet Napolitano and community colleges Chancellor Brice Harris was the final stop on a tour of governing boards that began in January at the UC regents meeting.



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