The Fullerton College Associated Students have proposed making the $8.50 A.S. benefit fee a requirement for all FC students. The resolution, passed by the A.S. senate near the end of last semester, was made in the hopes of giving A.S. a budget on par with other community colleges in the district.
The way that the A.S. fees work currently, students have to choose if they want to pay the $8.50 or not when registering for their classes. Under the new plan, students would be required to pay the fee during registration but would be able to opt out of the fee by attaining a waiver.
The proposal faces some criticism from Toni Dubois, vice president of student affairs, who believes that the “opt-out” policy would circumvent policies in the California Community College Chancellor’s Office Student Fee Handbook. The handbook states that, “Questions have been raised regarding the legality of the ‘negative check-off’ approach.”
A.S. Vice President Joshua Kleinbergs has been pushing for the proposal after working with the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, a group of student government officials that lobbies on behalf of community college students in the state government.
“The student fee is just a way for students to actually have control over what goes on at their community college,” Kleinbergs said.
The proposal would increase the A.S. budget from $15,000 per year to potentially upwards of $400,000 per year. While this would be a large increase to the school’s A.S. budget, Kleinbergs insists that it still pales in comparison to other local schools.
“To give you an idea of what other schools are getting, Orange Coast Community College, one of the highest transfer colleges, works with over one million for their budget,” Kleinbergs said. “Cerritos College works with $800,000.”
With the extra funds, Kleinbergs hopes to give the A.S. the ability to provide more services to the students. They want to be able to fund more activities for campus clubs, bring conferences to the campus and invest more into the Care Bank to meet the increasing needs of students.
“We have a great debate team that can’t travel to conferences,” said Jodi Balma, a political science instructor at FC. “We could fund that through Associated Students. We could fund the northern California trip, so that all students could go on a tour of transfer schools in northern California.”
In addition to the services that the student government hopes to provide, there is also the sense that more funds will lead to more input from them both on and off the Fullerton campus.
“The CSUs and UCs really treat their student government like an equal partner in shared government,” Balma said. “You have to have a source of income to do that. To advocate for the students.”
Fullerton College, at this time, only has enough money to send one representative to the SSCCC delegation that represents students in Sacramento, Calif. With the ability to send more of the student government, it will allow them to have more of a voice in the laws that govern Fullerton College.
When the state assembly passed Assembly Bill No. 955, which allowed community colleges to charge increased rates for intersession classes, Kleinbergs believed that the campus government should have had more input.
“The only thing that we had to battle this with was with groups like [SDCCC],” Kleinbergs said.
For Balma, she believes that the extra money the student government can receive will give them more legitimacy when dealing with governing bodies.
“For the vast majority of students that [$8.50] is going to be the least of the fees that are troublesome,” Balma said. “We have got to get textbook prices down. Ironically, by paying $8.50, your student representative could fly to Sacramento and advocate for cheaper textbooks.”
For the administration’s part they are still resistant to accepting the proposal. DuBois feels that if the A.S. wants to increase their budget they should go about convincing students to opt for paying the fee.
“I opposed it basically on the grounds that I don’t think it’s fair for the majority of students,” DuBois said. “If you want to participate and you want to pay your fee then that is what optional means. But optional doesn’t mean that we make you jump through a bunch of hurdles.”
The possibility of this change in policy taking effect is still up in the air as according to Kleinbergs. Once the proposal clears the FC administration, it would need to be approved by Ned Doffoney, chancellor of the North Orange County Community College District.
Since Fullerton College registers on the same system with Cypress College, any change to that process would require a similar change with that college.
Kleinbergs believes that the likelihood of the required fee being in place at the start of next year is slim. For him, a transfer student next semester, this means that someone in the A.S. will have to pick up on his efforts after he is gone from the student government.
“I think eventually it is going to happen,” Kleinbergs said. “Eventually some student somewhere down the line is going to get it passed.”