Slight fee increase per semester may enhance student representation in government

The California State Student Association seeks to push a yearly $4 fee for increased student representation in state affairs, which would take effect Fall 2015 if passed by the CSU Board of Trustees next month.

The Student Involvement and Representation Fee, sponsored by the CSSA, is meant to equip the organization with the funding necessary to maintain the organization’s autonomy and continue its mission as a representative of all the CSUs in the California government.

The fee would be voluntary and would be paid every semester, according to Meredith Turner, chief governmental officer for CSSA.

Sonya Soltani, SF State graduate student and the vice president of legislative affairs for the CSSA, described the organization as the “single recognized voice for all CSU students” to advocate on the state budget for financial aid opportunities, affordability and access to education.flic

“We really believe in order to adequately represent students, it (CSSA) needs a reliable and independent source of funding,” Soltani said.

The CSSA currently receives funding through $293,940.40 collected from membership fees through all 23 individual student governments in the CSU system and $295,000 from the Chancellor’s Office, according to the CSSA’s budget.

In the past, the CSSA has used its resources to connect students to low-cost and free course materials through the Affordable Learning Solutions campaign and awarding grants to CSU campuses to enhance their sustainability profiles through the CSSA Greenovation Fund.

The organization originally submitted the idea to the Board of Trustees earlier this year, and has made efforts to garner support for the proposal from schools in the CSU system.

Turner gave a presentation Oct. 15 during ASI’s weekly Board of Directors meeting to inform the board of SIRF and what can be done if the fee was approved. Turner was aware of what an additional cost may sound like to students, but stressed that SIRF would go toward advocating for quality higher education

“There’s no going around it,” Turner said. “If you’re asking students for money to support something, it’s a fee. However, SIRF is unique. It’s small so it doesn’t burden students and unlike many other fees, these few dollars from every student will ensure that students’ priorities, like the cost of college, accessibility, class availability and many more are consistently raised with state legislators and with the Chancellor and Board of Trustees.”

Soltani elaborated on SF State students’ contribution to CSAA funding by saying .67 cents of the fee students pay into ASI goes toward CSAA. If passed, SIRF would eliminate the need for this contribution and allocate more funding for campuses.

Psychology major Shane Colombo was in support of the fund as long as the CSAA properly represented public universities. A recipient of financial aid, Colombo wants his tuition to ensure student interests are represented in Sacramento.

“I have some hindrance, but it’s a good idea if they respect the voices of all the CSUs,” Colombo said.

The CSSA Board of Directors voted to approve the fee in January, and the CSU Board of Trustees will vote on it this November.