SSU Tables "Success Fee" Idea

Feb 19, 2014

Chalked protests were scattered across the Sonoma State campus this morning, hours before the Success Fee proposal was dropped.
Credit Bruce Robinson, KRCB

Sonoma State University’s top administrators have dropped a proposal to charge students a new, $500 per year “Success Fee.” The decision was announced by SSU President Ruben Armiñana in a memo to the University’s student, faculty and staff this afternoon which stated that the idea would not be pursued “at this time.” [See the full memo text below]

The additional fee was to have funded expanded course offerings, with the intent to “help students graduate in a timely manner by providing improved advising and additional classes,” Armiñana wrote. Yet doing so “would impact the enrollment target” set for the Rohnert Park campus by the CSU system, something Sonoma State cannot change unilaterally. Consequently, the president said, “we prefer to wait and see how our targets may be modified in the future before any further consideration of a fee.”

In the short time since the “success fee” idea it became public, it quickly generated a flurry or objections from students and faculty. The message it sends to students is “if they really want an education, they’re going to have to pay extra,” Mathematics professor Rick Luttman told the Sonoma State Star. “That’s just outrageous; the administration has to find some other way to do it.”

Peter Phillips, a sociology professor and leader of Project Censored offered a list of rebuttals to the fee increase in a widely circulated email: “There is more than enough money at SSU to provide classes for all students to graduate in a timely manner. The money has been mismanaged by the President through a bloated administration, general fund money spent on the GMC, massive debt service on loans for buildings, GMC and dorms,” he wrote. “Students and their families should not have to bail out campus mismanagement to the tune of $4.2 million a year. The average cost of a degree would go up from $2000 to $3000. Financial aid would not cover the costs. For working and low-income students the only way to cover the cost would be student loans.”

Asked about the sudden controversy a few hours before the decision to back away from the proposal, Provost Andrew Rogerson expressed surprise that the issue had aroused such heat. “It wasn’t really a proposal,” he commented, “It was just an idea that we wanted to look at.”

SSU President Ruben Armiñana

  The full text of President Armiñana's note to the campus reads as follows:

Sonoma State Students:

Over the last few weeks, Cabinet members have been discussing an option of pursing an academic success fee. The goal was to help students graduate in a timely manner by providing improved advising and additional classes. However, by offering more classes we would raise the average unit load for our students. This would impact the enrollment target set by the CSU system. We do not have a way to raise our target at this time. For now, we prefer to wait and see how our targets may be modified in the future before any further consideration of a fee. 

We have also been receiving very detailed feedback from the Associated Student meetings. We hear the concern raised by students about the extra financial burden of this fee. We have decided, therefore, not to pursue the academic success fee at this time.

I would like to thank the Associated Students who spent a considerable amount of time soliciting student input from the campus at large. This information was important in the decision-making process.

Sincerely,

Ruben Armiñana

President