President Ruben Armi?na is on a fast track to announce a $500 annual fee increase for all students at Sonoma State University.
He has set up a number of Associated Students-controlled meetings with the goal of informing his decision by mid-February. Experienced SSU observers believe that he has already made the decision to impose the fee and is just going through the motions of consultation required by California State University policy.
The proposed increase is called a "Success Fee" and would supposedly be used for more classes. The timing of the fee announcement comes just days after the ending of a registration crisis where many hundreds of students could not get the classes they needed for timely graduation. An obvious question is: Was the registration crisis allowed to happen as an administrative strategy for implementing new fees?
The primary reason to oppose a fee increase at SSU includes the fact that 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, the diversion of campus resources to the management of the Green Music Center and the cost of interest on massive campus debt.
Sonoma State University already ranks third in the CSU system for campus fees. SSU has the highest student-manager ratio with close to twice as many managers as similar-size campuses.
Students and their families should not have to bail out campus mismanagement to the tune of $4.2 million a year. Sixty-two percent of the SSU graduating class of 2012 carried an average of $21,206 in student loan debt. The cost of a bachelor of arts degree could go up $2,000 to $3,000 if the fee is imposed.
Financial aid would not cover the fee. For working and low-income students, the only way to cover the cost would be to go deeper into debt with student loans.
Students, faculty and alumni are organizing "No Fee" meetings on and off campus. As of Wednesday, more than 900 students, alumni, faculty and their families have pledged on-line to boycott donations to SSU if new fees are imposed by the administration.
Sonoma State University spends 76 percent of its donor gift disbursement distribution on buildings and other projects and only 18 percent on instructional programs. SSU's ratio is the exact opposite of all other CSU campuses where the average donor gift disbursement to instructional programs is 63 percent.
Follow this issue at http://ssufreedomfromfees.org.
Peter Phillips, a Sonoma State University sociology professor, is president of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored and co-host with Mickey Huff on the KPFA Project Censored show.