CSU fee addiction shows value of Props 13, 26, 62, 218

CSU fee addiction shows value of Props 13, 26, 62, 218

student.feesThe newsrooms of California appear to have collectively decided that the state props that make raising taxes and fees more difficult for elected officials — starting with 13, 2662 and 218 — are irrational. This is regularly reflected in the coverage of Prop 13 that depicts it as a symbol of Golden State dysfunction instead of a useful limit on property tax hikes in a state with a history of real-estate bubbles. Without Prop 13, home-owning families on fixed incomes would have been destroyed by the 1999-2006 housing bubble. Have you ever read a single news story that points that out? Me neither.

Now we are seeing a concrete reminder of the importance of the state laws established by these props: the constant stream of stories about the ever-bigger fees that California State University campuses mandate that students must pay on top of tuition and textbooks. Why do they keep going up? Because it’s an easy way to backfill budgets and make them balance instead of making tough decisions to keep spending in check.

Let’s look at fees demanded by San Jose State University, one of the larger CSU campuses:

Campus-Based Mandatory Fees
Health Services $272
Health Facilities $111
Instructionally Related Activities $0
Materials Services and Facilities $660
Student Body Association $169
Student Body Center $659
Total Mandatory Fees1 $1,871


That is a lot of money. And it may significantly understate what San Jose State actually charges. The San Bernardino Sun reported Tuesday on 12 CSU campuses’ increasing reliance on “student success fees.” SJSU had the second highest fee, at $590.

If this happened in government agencies covered by the state laws on taxes and fees put in place by voters, CSU campuses would have been required to illustrate that there is a nexus between the fees charged and the services  received by those paying. A vague “citizen success fee” would be laughed out of court.

As the Sun noted, student complaints about the fee squeeze have been so intense that the state budget included a moratorium on new fees until January 2016.

Time for a fee initiative for public colleges?

It’s good to see that students aren’t sheep. But perhaps it’s time their outrage was echoed by their parents, who usually help pay for college bills. A ballot initiative that required UC, CSU and community colleges to establish a true connection between fees imposed and services rendered could end the backdoor tuition hikes that the wave of campus fee hikes amount to.

carmine.wormerFinancial abuse of students has been going on forever, to the point where it was a punch line in 1978’s “Animal House,” a movie set in 1962 at a second-rate school, Faber College, in the Northeast.

In the film, Mayor Carmine DePasto has a frank private discussion with Dean Wormer:

Mayor: If you want the homecoming parade in my town … you have to pay.

Dean: Carmine, l think it’s wrong to extort money from the college.

Mayor: Look … as the mayor of Faber, l’ve got big responsibilities. These parades are very expensive. You’re using my police … my sanitation people, my free Oldsmobiles. If you mention extortion again … I’ll have your legs broken.

Dean (chuckling): I’m sure l can arrange a nice honorarium from the student fund.

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