Fee Increases Possible for Career Students
November 14, 2004 12:27 AM
An initiative that would place a hefty surcharge on students who stay in school too long has sparked a debate throughout the CSU system that promises to reshape the way students get academic advising.
At the center of the controversy is Gov. Schwarzenegger's definition of “excess units” and who should pay for them.
The Governor recommends charging CSU students who exceed 132 units – or 10 percent of their degree’s requirements - a $200 penalty per extra unit.
But CSU administrators are pushing for changes in the proposal that would shift the financial burden from students to the individual campus. Last May, the CSU Academic Senate voted to recommend that the surcharge apply only to students who have exceeded 144 units – or 120 percent – of their degree’s requirements.
At this higher level, 813 SF State students would be affected, 682 students less than at the levels proposed by the Governor.
So far no formal proposal has been presented to the campuses, but data is being collected to respond to the Governor, said Jo Volkert, Associate Vice President of SF State’s Enrollment Planning and Management.
SF State history professor, Robert Cherny, the former chair of the CSU’s Academic Senate, said the Chancellor’s office has consistently stated it does not want to penalize students. Efforts are being made to identify certain groups with good reasons to take more classes than required, he said.
“We don’t want to discourage students by charging them a lot of extra money,” he said.
However, the proposal is still something California’s Department of Finance wants and it could, he said, craft budget language that would require the students to pay.
The State projects that up to $24.4 million in additional revenue for the CSU system could be generated by the surcharges.
With student populations growing and a state budget shortfall, the need to address an increasing bottleneck of students who take too many units necessitates measures that encourage students to graduate, said Darlene Yee, the chair of SF State's Enrollment Management Committee.
“[We] want to be proactive in working with students and meet their academic interests, but we need to be mindful of the time to degree and help students graduate in a timely fashion,” she said.
SF State’s Enrollment Management Committee issued several recommendations on how to help students with extra units graduate in its 2005-06 Enrollment Management plan.
They recommend advisors help students who have a high unit count create a degree completion plan. If the students fail to meet with the advisor, their records will be placed on hold and if they fail to graduate on time, they will be barred from future class registration, it says.
Students need to consistently meet with their advisors, Yee said. When asked whether she thought the school had enough advisors, she said that every tenured and tenure-track faculty member on campus is an advisor. “It’s our job,” but more advising help is always welcome, she said.
Manolo Paltin, the CSSA chair, understands the predicament that students who take too many classes create, still the CSSA is opposing the measure for one simple reason: "Using money to influence student behavior effects students of low income,” he said. Paltin believes you need to talk about student advising when you talk about students who take too many extra units.
Brett Smith, director of SF State’s Undergraduate Advising Center, believes students would benefit from a better-coordinated advising system. Mandatory advising is a good idea, but like most departments on campus, advising has had to endure difficult budget cuts, he said.
Students who wait until the last minute to get questions answered and then become discouraged when asked to wait are one of the problems he sees. He recommends students come in throughout the entire semester, not just at the end.
“How many of you will meet with an advisor in the middle of the semester to discuss graduation or plans for the next semester,” he asks?
Not many, and for him that is part of the dilemma. Advising has to be participatory, he said; students need to seek it.
A California Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review notes that UC and CSU officials question the potential benefits of the surcharge.
The transcripts of 300 SF State students with extra units were examined to determine why they have not graduated.
So far, several sources informed of the study, which is nearing completion, said that the data demonstrates that most students are making academic progress. Some students are double-majors, some studied abroad, some took classes in a foreign language and others have completed classes necessary to move on to graduate school. Few, however, are said to have gotten sidetracked.
The results are a solid basis to tell the Governor that most students are not taking unnecessary classes, Cherny said.
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