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Where does your money go?

By | April 29, 2012 | Opinion

This chart shows the distribution of one’s student fees each semester.
The three entities that use most of the student fee money are athletics
($99), the Health Center ($91) and the Association ($64.35).

Paying for College is getting more and more expensive for students.  With tuition and fee increases, the cost of textbooks and other class materials, campuses have to find ways to keep college affordable while still providing a quality education.

Students are also becoming more and more critical of how the money they pay is being spent. Like any concerned consumer, students want to make sure they are getting the biggest bang for their buck.

How does the CSU system (and, more importantly, Fresno State) spend student fees?

In this article we are going to break down the types of fees the CSU can charge, the fees Fresno State students pay, how that money flows through the university and what it gets spent on at the end of the day.

 

Types of fees:

Fresno State, as part of the CSU system, can charge five different types of fees.  The CSU chancellor’s office has categorized each type of fee and set rules and standards for how those fees are to be adopted on each CSU campus.

Most of the fees require consultation with a Student Fee Advisory Committee before they can be implemented.  Fresno State has a functioning Student Fee Advisory Committee and has adopted fees in each category.

 

The Student Fee Advisory Committee:

The chancellor’s office requires all CSU campuses to have a Student Fee Advisory Committee.  On Fresno State’s campus, the committee is made up of five students and four other members.  The university president appoints the four non-student positions and the ASI president appoints the five student positions (one student position is usually by filled the ASI president). The committee is chaired by the vice president of student affairs.

The Student Fee Advisory Committee hears presentations from any campus entity that wants to charge or increase a fee and then advises the university president on whether or not they find that the fee is necessary and will benefit students. In the case of Category 2 fees, the Student Fee Advisory Committee expects groups requesting a fee increase to engage the larger student body in a discussion about the fee before the committee will consider the fee.  Generally this is accomplished in one of two ways: a campus referendum or alternative consultation.

The campus referendum allows every student who chooses to participate to vote on the proposed fee increase.  Alternative consultation requires that the proposers present to different clubs and organizations and engage in meaningful dialog about the proposed fee increase.

 

Fee comparison across the CSU:

Tuition for full-time students is $2,736.00 per semester no matter what CSU a student attends. Tuition is a Category 1 fee and must be paid in order to attend any CSU.  The only other type of mandatory fees are Category 2 fees.

While these are mandatory like Category 1 fees, they are established by each CSU campus respectively.  This means that the amount students pay varies depending on which CSU they attend.

In order to help regulate these costs, the chancellor’s office has provided six categories in which campuses can charge students additional fees: health center facilities, health services, instructionally related activities, material, services and facilities, student body associations and student body centers.

Each campus must look at the CSU’s definitions of these fees and make sure that any student fees that are charged beyond tuition meets the requirements of one of the chancellor’s approved categories. There is a big disparity in how much each of the 23 CSUs require in fees: Monterey Bay only requires its students to pay $491 in Category 2 fees; San Luis Obispo, on the other hand, requires $2,439.

 

Category 2 Fees at Fresno State:

Fresno State students pay $791 in Category 2 fees per year.  This means that each students pays $395.50 in the fall semester, and the same amount in the spring semester.

But where does the money go after its collected? What are we spending it on?

Just because the money is collected in six categories does not mean that the money is spent in those categories.  Each category is broken up further and the fees each student pays end up supporting different campus entities, including the Bulldog Card Office, The Collegian, academics, the library, Programs for Children, ASI, financial aid, the Recreation Center, the USU and SSU, student grants, the Association, Health Center and awthletics.

What’s more confusing is the same campus entity may collect student fee dollars from more than one of the six chancellor-approved categories.  For example, financial aid receives funds from four different categories, while athletics and the library receive funds from two different categories.

If each campus entity received the same amount of student fees, each entity would receive just under 8 percent of the total so there is a huge disparity between the greatest collecting and least collecting entities.

Three fee collectors — athletics, the health center and the Association — receive more than half of the student fee dollars Fresno State student pay in any given semester.

At the same time eight out of 13 collectors receive 5 percent or less of the total student fee dollars collected. The disparity between collectors is not necessarily a negative thing — each entity provides different services, reaches out to different populations of students and is more or less expensive than others to operate.

The disparity does, however, make one wonder whether each entity is worth the amount of money it receives from student fees. That is a question for students to answer for themselves.

 

This is the second column in a three-part series on budgets and fees. Next week’s column will be an in-depth look at the ASI budget.

Selena Farnesi is the president of Associated Students, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @SMFarnesi.

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