What the Hell Are ‘Student Success Fees’? (Or: How to Raise Tuition Without Raising Tuition)

If they really want to make money, they should implement an "Outrage" feeCompiled by Sacramento BeeCalifornia instituted a tuition freeze in 2012 for its state university system. Instead the University of California and the California State University systems each got millions in additional funding from the state. But if there's anything that can be learned about the intricacies of public funding methods in California it is that there are these magical creatures called "fees" that will let government agencies or publicly funded institutions work around any restrictions on raising things like taxes and tuitions. Just call something a "fee" and you can apply it to anything. It's like duct tape for budgets.

So many California colleges instituted something called "Student Success Fees." What are these for? As the Sacramento Bee explains, "The millions in additional funds have paid for hiring faculty, adding course sections and technology upgrades." That's what tuition is for, isn't it? So the colleges got additional funding increases from the state and increased tuition anyway, despite the freeze. They just called it a "fee." Now that's an education for California college students they can use.

The "fees" have started causing problems, because of course, it turns out they often have little to do with "student success," (whatever that even means):

Sonoma State tabled plans for a new success fee in February after students circulated petitions threatening to withhold future donations to the school. San Jose State students staged a walkout in April when a budget review revealed that nearly 40 percent of success fee revenue went to athletics, leading the university to lower its fee by $40 for next year, rather than hiking it by $160 as originally planned.

The legislature is considering forcing a one-year moratorium on raising or implementing new fees of this kind, in exchange for giving the college system even more money. As is typical in college budget reporting, there is no discussion of the massive administrative bloat that is causing college prices to skyrocket and to institute "fees" for the things tuition is supposed to be covering in the first place.

The California Faculty Association, which represents CSU professors, also wants the moratorium, but not for reasons that we might hope:

Lillian Taiz, a professor of history at CSU Los Angeles and president of the California Faculty Association, which represents CSU professors, said the faculty is strongly opposed to student success fees.

"This is transferring the responsibility of funding higher ed from all of us together to individuals," she said. It's the "very worst thing you can possibly do."

Declaring that the individuals going to college being responsible to pay for going to college is the "worst thing you can possibly do"? Suddenly I feel an urge to support the fees after all. If the costs were more adequately borne by the consumers directly and not subsidized by hundreds of millions from the state, colleges probably wouldn't be able to charge so much and would have to maybe scale back on that administrative bloat in order to keep their students. Student debt is already well out of hand. As it is, students are more and more considering the costs when deciding which college to attend.

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  • WTF||

    Bureaucrats will find a way to get your money. As in New Jersey where there is supposedly a 2% cap on property tax increases. So my city simply instituted a "sewer fee", where the check for the annual fee was made payable to and mailed to the office of the tax assessor.

  • Almanian!||

    PENALTAX, yo

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    And I pay $115 or so every year for a fire protection fee in California. Use to be covered by the property tax, but a proposition required taxes pass by 2/3 vote. So now it's a fee and separate.

    Or so I've been told by others who I think know more than me about such things.

  • entropy_factor||

    At Texas A&M (boo, hiss) I believe, a non-announced student fee paid for the construction of a LGBT-only study center. People petitioned because they felt they shouldn't have to pay for something that 1) was not available to all students equally and 2) that they morally did not approve of. LGBT crowd at A&M argued that straight people already "controlled" all the other study centers and LGBT deserved their own- at the expense of the student body.

    The university moved forward anyway.

  • Almanian!||

    "This is transferring the responsibility of funding higher ed from all of us together to individuals," she said. It's the "very worst thing you can possibly do."

    Jeebus, tittyfuckin' Christ - right there it is, innit? Fuck me.

    No - I mean - FUCK CALIFORNIA. That state cannot succumb to stupidity, earthquake or mudslide into the ocean fast enough.

  • anon||

    Yeah, if only 9/11 times a thousand happened to Cali.

  • Almanian!||

    I always picture Team America Headquarters™ when I hear "9/11 times a thousand"....

  • anon||

    "This is transferring the responsibility of funding higher ed from all of us together to individuals,"

    God forbid you teach those kids things like ... responsibility.

  • Rich||

    They just called it a "fee." Now that's an education for California college students they can use.

    At least if they move to the "Fee, er, *Free* State" of Maryland they'll know what they're getting into.

  • Almanian!||

    DAMN I can't get over teh stoopid and mendacious in education, esp in Cali.

    MOAR, PLEEZ, and "MOAR" is always "money". Cause a lack of spending is the fucking issue.

    People are so fucking stupid.

  • anon||

    If "MOAR MONEY" fixed anything, California would be one fixed up ass state.

  • OldMexican||

    What the Hell Are 'Student Success Fees'?


    It is the kind of invention created by the Tony's of the world to suck money from unsuspecting victims.

  • mb||

    This used to piss me off when I took classes. Most employers will reimburse tuition, but not fees. CA is far from the only state school that does this. I personally have never seen this for a private school (just taking a class or 2 not full time and not living on campus)

  • Cdr Lytton||

    My employer was the opposite. They capped tuition reimbursement but not fees or books, so I was happy when the school increased fees instead of tuition.

  • ||

    Was I too naive and blinded by pussybrain when I was in university, or has academia always been this craven and money grubbing? I don't remember armies of administrators and bureaucrats. I don't remember departments that had no professors other than maintenance and grounds keeping. No one gave a shit about diversity or LGBT or the patriarchy or catering to every emotional disorder imaginable.

    Have we always been treading in an ocean of bullshit and I just didn't notice?

  • wareagle||

    no, it was not always thus. There was the occasional war protest or few people who didn't like the CIA recruiting on campus but the grievance industry had yet to take hold.

  • Rev-Match||

    "This is transferring the responsibility of funding higher ed bacon from all of us together to individuals," she said. It's the "very worst thing you can possibly do."

  • SugarFree||

    Universities are laughably inefficient. They would have to put forth an unacademic level of effort to waste any more than they already do.

  • califernian||

    Same thing happens with property taxes in california. Can't raise property taxes but every year I get a new 'assessment' on my bill.

  • Jull||

    Students costs are actually approaching unbearable level for most families, using all kinds of options to provide education to their children - parents' Plus loans, personal loans from direct lenders and so on, but many of future to be students fail to fill in the Pell Grant application, which guarantees up to 5000$ grant, which should not be repaid.

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