Administration withdraws success fee

The administration of Sonoma State University is exploring alternative funding options to alleviate impacts of limited class availability after the proposed Academic Success fee was withdrawn on Wednesday. 

President of Sonoma State University Ruben Armiñana explained two funding alternatives that could be used to increase class availabilities. Firstly, chancellor of the California State University (CSU) System, Timothy White, is introducing new funding in the form of graduation initiatives in next year’s budget. Secondly, next year’s budget will provide more funding for campuses toward enrollment growth.

“We will use the money we get in the next budget for enrollment growth and whatever we get from the graduation initiative from the chancellor toward hopefully increasing class availabilities,” Armiñana said. 

Armiñana said both the graduation initiative and extra funding for enrollment in next year’s budget would not prove to be as effective in supporting increased class availabilities as the proposed Academic Success fee, an annual student fee increase of $500.

“Those two measures would not be as vigorous as what would have happened if the fee got approved,” Armiñana said.   

Community Service Advisor and sophomore Veronica Saxer described the administration’s decision to drop the Academic Success fee as “bittersweet.”

“It could have helped and it could have got those extra classes and teachers what it was supposed to be used for. But at the same time, it’s an extra $500 that could be used towards books or other school supplies,” Saxer said.

Saxer hopes the administration can “try to find a better way to utilize the money that we do have” to resolve the problem of limited class availabilities.

“Obviously if this fee was necessary, then we’re not using what we have to the best of our ability,” Saxer said.

Armiñana emphasized limited class availabilities are due to the fact that the university lost 30 percent of its budget in the space of two years.

“The lack of class availability is upon the lack of sufficient faculty members who have retired and could not been replaced because the university lost 30 percent of its budget. And that’s what people don’t want to accept,” Armiñana said.

Armiñana acknowledged the fee would not have benefited students at this time because it would raise the average student unit load and thus “impact the enrollment target of the CSU.” According to Armiñana, the campus is already “over our target by two-and-a-half to three percent, roughly about 300 students.”

Despite impacting the enrollment target, Armiñana said the students were a big part in determining not to continue forward with the fee. 

Over the past several weeks, student and faculty groups have protested against the Academic Success fee using various online platforms. Over 1,200 students and faculty pledged on an online petition established by Sonoma State University Freedom from Fees Coalition. Sonoma State Students for Quality Education launched a social media campaign using the hashtag “#WTFee” to encourage students to protest against the fee and its impact on their finances.

Professor of sociology at Sonoma State, Peter Phillips, credited the protest effort as significantly contributing to the administrations abandonment of the fee.

“I think it was a significant influence on their (the administration) to withdraw (the proposed Academic Success Fee). Given the 20-year history with the president, he doesn’t back down like this,” Phillips said. 

“We will be announcing the success of what we did so other campus groups can recognize that, ‘Hey, the students and faculty at SSU were able to stop this (Academic Success Fee).” 

Phillips is “very pleased that the president decided to suspend pursuit of a $500 fee on all students” but simultaneously warned students the implementation of a fee is still eminent.

“He left the door open to do it in the future and I think we need to be eternally aware that it’s possible,” Phillips said.

Armiñana is not denying the possibility of re-introducing the concept of the Academic success fee in the near future. 

“Never say never. I don’t see it (the fee) in the immediate future but more so in the next year,” Armiñana said.