Glendale Community College will immediately cease collecting a $10 fee from new students for school identification cards after the Glendale News-Press informed the institution it was potentially violating a state protocol in place for at least seven years.
Drew Sugars, the college’s director of communications and community relations, confirmed Wednesday the college canceled plans to charge for ID cards and will issue refunds to students who have paid the fee since July 1. The issue was first brought to light by the Burbank Blog.
“What I’ve since learned is schools in the community college district can charge fees, but the students have to be able to opt out,” Sugars said. “Our language is not clear, so, I’m actually very glad this was brought up because this is something that we’re going to fix.”
Sugars said he was unsure how many students paid for IDs, and the school’s information technology staff did not provide a count as of Thursday afternoon.
Students would either see $10 credited to their school accounts or, if they owed no other fees, a check will be mailed to them.
The crux of the issue for Glendale Community College was whether it violated a legal opinion adhered to by California Community College Chancellor’s Office.
Rule 4.4 from the state student-fee handbook states, “a district cannot charge a mandatory fee for a student identification card.”
However, the handbook also states the prohibition, “does not mean that a district cannot offer students the option to purchase such a card in order to obtain certain optional benefits such as faster registration.”
Glendale Community College falls into a gray area because, according to the school’s website, all first-time students are “asked” to purchase an ID card.
There are benefits to possessing a card, though it is not necessary for enrollment.
“It allows [students] to check out books at the library, even borrow computer laptops, and they get discounts at events,” Sugars said. However, students without identification cards may not have access to those same services and benefits, he added.
Peter Khang, deputy counsel at the chancellor’s office, said the lack of equity was concerning.
“There’s other services that are attached to the card,” Khang said. “So, if I’m an 18-year-old student, or a young student, it seems like I could interpret this as a requirement and, if it is a requirement, they would be violating the law.”
Khang added, “I can tell you the language looks fairly problematic.”
“Our language needs to be much clearer, and we owe that to the students ... That’s what we’re working on right now,” Sugars said.
What is unclear is why Glendale Community College continued to charge students years after the chancellor’s office called for the elimination of mandatory fees.
No one from the chancellor’s office could confirm when the policy changed, but a state student fee handbook update from 2012 listed the cancellation of mandatory fees.
Sugars said he thinks there was a “breakdown somewhere” between outside auditors hired by Glendale Community College to annually review rule changes and school staff.
Sugars said the school will not refund any student ID fees charged prior to July 1 because “it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to determine which students did or didn’t use the multiple benefits attached to the student ID when the fee was in effect.”
Approximately 3,000 new students register each semester at Glendale Community College, according to Sugars, though not all sign up for an ID card. Fee money was deposited into the school’s General Fund.
Sugars said the college was already in the process of phasing out student ID fees, and an expected vote in September by the school’s student-fees-and-tuition committee would have done so.
“This just sped up the process,” Sugars said.