Fee Policy Raises New Questions

The registration fee — officially renamed the Student Services Fee, as of May 19 — exists within the UC Student Fee Policy, which also includes the systemwide educational fee. The $300-per-quarter fee has traditionally funded student resources such as counseling and psychological services, as well as some social activities.

The Student Fee Policy was last revised on Nov. 19, 2009, when the regents voted to raise both the registration and educational fee by a total of 32 percent — leading to widespread student outcry, several protests and the March 4 Day of Action, during which students across the nation rallied in support of public education.

According to graduate student and Registration Fee Advisory Committee Chair Erik Van Esselstyn, the new guidelines for the Student Services Fee allow the money to be put toward non-service resources, such as funding enrollment and admissions services, financial aid administration and campus libraries.

However, a 2002 document from the UC Council on Student Fees — which consists of the chairs of the Council of Student Fees at each of the campuses — listed all these areas as inappropriate recipients of registration-fee funds.

Van Esselstyn said the fee’s new flexibility is detrimental to student life.

“The registration fee is not supposed to be used for libraries or state-funded programs,” Van Esselstyn said. “They’re separate from education fees for a reason, and students pay these fees so that it can come back to them in the form of services.”

However, according to UC spokesperson Peter King, the reclassification of the fee will increase accountability for student-fee allocation as a whole.

“It’s essentially a name change, but the change was motivated by a desire to remove any doubt about where the students’ registration fees were being spent,” King said. “There had been some concern expressed by students and others that the monies generated were being applied to other purposes beyond student services. This clarifies they are not.”

A.S. President Wafa Ben Hassine agreed with King that the revision is a positive one.

“From what I’ve heard, from UCSA and all sources, they say it’s just a name change to make it more transparent,” Ben Hassine said. “I would not support this if it paid for libraries or administrative services.”

The Student Services Fee policy now requires each campus to maintain a website providing details on how registration fees are spent. Additionally, chancellors for individual campuses are now required to annually solicit and consider student opinion on the amount of the fee; these recommendations will then be considered by the Council on Student Fees.

“It’s a really good change,” Ben Hassine said. “It increases transparency as to where the student service fees are going, since students had been suspecting that it was used for other things. Also, changing the name to student service fee makes it more specific.”

However, Van Esselstyn has maintained that the recent change allows administrators to expand the scope of the Student Services Fee, which would contradict the purpose of having two separate fees — one for education and one for student services.

“Distinguishing these two fees has a purpose,” Van Esselstyn said. “These fees were designed so that in these circumstances, when budget cuts occur, we still retain these student resources on campus. Because college isn’t just about education — it’s about the experience as well. This is blurring the distinction and taking out of two pockets instead of one.”

Van Esselstyn said an alternative to redirecting student-service funds would be to raise the education fee and lower the Student Services Fee so that the total amount would remain the same.

Because the Student Services Fee can be considered a “new” fee, he said it is possible that previous documents ensuring the oversight of the registration fee will now be ignored.

“One of the tactical advantages of defining the fee with a new name is that the history of the fee under the old name becomes more difficult to associate with its current usage,” Esselstyn said.

Former Marshall College Council Senator and Registration Fee Advisory Committee member Brian McEuen said the new policy unfairly allows the university to funnel money away from the fee’s intended recipients.

The UCSD administration already has a history of drawing from the registration-fee fund for academic purposes. In an October 20, 2009 article, graduate student Garo Bournoutian said that over $1 million in student registration fees had been reallocated from student services to compensate for a lack of adequate academic funding.

“Before, [the fee] couldn’t be used for curricular things, and anything to do with the educational mission,” McEuen said. “It’s very shady that this is happening, and it shouldn’t be happening.”

The new Student Services Fee policy will go into effect beginning Fall Quarter 2010.

Readers can contact Angela Chen at [email protected].

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