Would you pay for services you do not use, or do not have access to? The collegiate population at Fullerton experiences this dilemma and it has been happening for decades.
How is this fair; students who take courses in the evening and on the weekends at Fullerton College have to pay a mandatory health fee. Even if the students do not use these health services, they still pay this mandated health fee.
Accessibility to these services is also a factor. The Student Health Center (SHC) hours of operation are not accessible to all the students who pay the health charge.
Case-and-point, the evening and weekend students. SHC hours of operation in the fall and spring are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The SHC is closed on weekends.
The availability of health services for evening students is even more restricted during the summer. The facility’s summer hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and closed on Friday. The clinic is also closed on the weekends during the summer semester.
In FC’s 2019 summer schedule, there were more than a dozen courses offered during the weekdays. Start times for these courses ranged from 4 p.m. through 7 p.m. There were also classes offered during the weekend. The evening and weekend attendees were mandated to pay the health fee, but they do even have access to the SHC.
The SHC has several health care professionals available and an array of services, but not enough students utilize the benefits. This clinic’s workforce is comprised of medical doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, psychologists, health educators, medical assistants and clerical staff. Services offered range from Clinical Psychological to Health Education.
Dana Timmermans, interim director at the SHC, estimated that about 22,000 students attended in the fall 2019 semester and only 1,500 visited or just 6.8% used the services. Significantly, more than 90% of the student population does not utilize the services they pay for.
On the Fullerton Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 Class Schedules on page 8, Titled Fee and Refunds under the Required Fee category it is stated, “Health Fee pursuant to Education Code and district policy, Fullerton College has a mandatory health fee. The health fee is $19 per term ($16 for summer) for each student regardless of the number of units taken. The health fee and/or health fee exception are subject to change should the state legislature take action to change them. Any student who depends exclusively on prayer for healing in accordance with the teachings of a bonafide religious sect, denomination or organization is exempt from paying the health fee. Upon request, the health fee will be refunded to any student who withdraws from all courses prior to the 10% date of the length of the course.”
The statue referred to is the State of California Education Code 76355 which authorizes community colleges to charge a health fee. The district policy is The North Orange County Community College District (NOCCCD) Chapter 5 Student Services, BP 5030 Fees “1.4 Health Fee (Education Code Section 76355): Each full-time student shall be charged a health service fee as required by law”. The NOCCCD policy clearly states the full-time student is required to pay a fee. Not to mention part-timers, which are the majority of the student population is striking.
Three Fullerton College evening students who work full-time, get out of work after the Student Health Center closes and already have health insurance through their jobs were asked these two questions (1) How they felt about paying for a $19 health fee they do not have access too or use. (2) How they feel about paying for health services twice through their employers and at Fullerton College.
The first student’s response to question (1) “If you work full-time there is no way you can take advantage of the health center at all. You are basically paying a fee for nothing.”
When asked question number (2) “I think it is unfair to pay for something I do not use and I do not want to add an additional fee. Especially because I already have insurance. I am paying double for health services, why pay again?” said Sandra Garcia, Psychology major.
Second Student’s reply to question (1) “I feel like it is a waste of my money. I don’t get to use the services.” Response to question” (2) “An unnecessary fee that I shouldn’t have to pay,” said Alicia Perez, Paralegal Studies.
Third student’s reaction to question (1) “Kind of sucks because at least they should have flexible hours. Kind of discriminatory towards the night shift because we are here until 10 p.m. In a way it is not fair. It segregates the night students from the health center,” (2) “I have health insurance. I think if you have health insurance through your job, they should wave the mandatory health fee because you are already covered,” said Grover Escobar, Business Administration, major.
In conclusion, evening and weekend students will keep paying the mandated health fee they do not use or have access to. These undergraduates pay twice for health services through their employer and when they enroll in school, this redundancy is a norm. Only a small minority of the student population uses the Student Health Center. Life is not fair and neither is this fee. It is the law of the land, for now.