Changes to degree requirements and the implementation of new fees are being considered by the California State University Board of Trustees, and many students could end up paying the price if they don’t prepare.
“There are two major proposals on the table that will affect students,” said Sean Kiernan, vice president of external affairs for Fresno State’s Associated Students, Inc. “[The Board of Trustees] are considering it and we want the student voice to be taken into consideration.”
The first proposal would revise current CSU policy to limit all majors except two five-year programs—a bachelor’s degree in architecture or landscaping—to a 120-unit maximum.
“This would be scheduled to be implemented in January, for the 2013 to 2014 academic year,” Kiernan said. “It would be left up to each individual campus to figure out how to cut each major down to 120 units.”
According to documents given to Kiernan by student trustee Jillian Ruddell, in 2008 81 percent of degree programs across the CSU system had already instituted 120-unit caps as part of the CSU’s attempts to streamline graduation.
“The rationale behind it is because there’s so many majors that take so long to complete, the university is not able to admit as many new freshman as it could,” Kiernan said.
While the first proposal may not affect many students in programs already limited to 120 units, a trio of new fees are looming.
The first of which Kiernan called a graduation incentive or super senior fee.
“That means if you took more than 150 units you would start getting charged per unit after that,” Kiernan said. “So once you’ve finished 150 units each unit after that you incur a $372 charge.”
Kiernan said that the $372 per-unit amount, equivalent to non-resident tuition excess rates, could go up in the future and that students who incur the charge would pay it as part of tuition.
Kiernan also said that failing a class wouldn’t count towards the 150-unit total.
“You’re not earning those units so you would not be charged,” Kiernan said.
The second fee would implement an additional charge for retaking a class, at $100 per unit.
“If you took a course twice, either if you failed it or to raise your GPA, you could get charged for retaking the class,” Kiernan said.
The final fee would add a third tier to tuition rates, or what Kiernan quoted from the board as “extra full-time.” Currently, students fall into either part or full-time tuition rates. Any student that takes 12 units or more falls under the label of full-time.
Under the proposed fee, every unit a student enrolls in over 16 would incur an additional $200 charge.
“I believe the reasoning is that if a student is getting more from the CSU they should be paying more,” Kiernan said. “I believe full-time tuition now only covers the cost of 16 units, so any units taken after that now are effectively free.”
Kiernan said he expressed concerns to the Board about students who need to take more than 16 units a semester as part of majors with higher unit requirements.
“Robert Turnage, vice chancellor for budget, and other trustees responded that there is no way to craft this perfectly,” Kiernan said. “No matter how it is written, you could always find one situation that the fee would apply to when it really should not.”
The three new fees will be considered by the Board of Trustees at its November meeting.
Kiernan said that all the proposals were separate from the debate surrounding Proposition 30, the ballot initiative that would trigger a $250 million cut to the CSU system if it does not pass.
“These fee proposals are separate from the Proposition 30 contingency plan and recommended to the Board of Trustees for approval regardless of whether Prop. 30 passes or not,” Kiernan said. “These proposals are said to be for changing student behavior, not raising revenue to help the budget gap.”
Kiernan also made it clear that no decision has been made yet.
“Both the unit cap and fees could be deferred to later meetings, voted down, or amended in any way,” Kiernan said.
“Anything could happen.”