$5 fee waiver left unadvertised
Students forced to pay activity charge
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 14:10
An outstanding balance of $5 was billed to students signing up for classes this semester, even though few students were aware of the possibility to opt out of paying the fee.
The $5 student activity fee was implemented by the Associated Student Union in the spring, however information about a waiver form that allows students to opt out of paying the fee did not reach the vast majority of students.
Health and human services major Judy Wimberly was aware of the fee, but not the fee waiver.
“I remember seeing the outstanding fee of $5, but I didn’t know there was a way of not paying for the fee,” Wimberly said. “I wish they (the ASU) did a better job at getting that information out to people so people who have difficulties with money could have known how to opt out of it.”
The district Governing Board approved the districtwide student activity fee in 2011 and it was implemented during the 2012 spring semester. It is designed to provide funding for the Associated Student Union groups at Contra Costa, Diablo Valley and Los Medanos colleges.
Governing Board member John Marquez said, “We (the district Governing Board) voted for the student activity fee and gave the student governments of the three colleges the right to charge $5 to students, but it is up to the individual student governments to choose how to advertise the fee and the fee waivers.”
The fee was put into effect in the middle of the 2012 spring semester and students enrolled in classes were billed $5 without the possibility of receiving a waiver because the opt out deadline had passed for the spring semester, essentially making the fee mandatory.
Students who did not pay the spring fee were restricted from signing up for 2012 fall classes and obtaining transcripts, ASU President Jazmine Ramezanzadeh said.
Not until the 2012 fall semester were students given the option to opt out of the fee by receiving a waiver at the Student Life Office, she said.
Waivers were due to the Cashier’s Office by Aug. 30.
However, the only means of receiving this waiver is by going to the Student Life Office in the Student Activities Building and obtaining a physical copy, Ramezanzadeh said.
Contra Costa College’s sister colleges, Los Medanos and Diablo Valley, advertised the waiver on their websites prior to the Aug. 30 deadline for opting out of the fee.
“We did our best to advertise the fee waiver online as soon as we put out information about the fee,” LMC’s Associated Students President Jairo Vazquez said. “Students have the right to know about the waiver. The (CCC) ASU should have done a better job of advertising the fee waiver online to inform students about it.”
On Friday Ramezanzadeh said, “It is up to us (the ASU) to put it up on the website. We just haven’t done anything yet to advertise the waiver online.”
CCC’s ASU has been focusing on informing students about the waiver by means of word of mouth and through informing students at events like Welcome Week, which ran from Aug. 20-24, Ramezanzadeh said.
Student Life Coordinator Kelly Ramos said, “We wanted to have students come down to the ASU Office to learn more about the student fee, and how it affects them.”
Account clerk and cashier Alma Cardenas, who processes the waivers said, “No more than 10 students have actually turned in their waivers. Students either don’t know about the waiver or they are just accepting of it.”
Students had until Aug. 30 to turn in their waivers to get refunded the $5. Any waivers after that date were not accepted, Cardenas said.
District Dean of Research and Planning Tim Clow said the current headcount for the fall semester is 7,096.
Minus the 10 students who opted out, the total funds received will be close to $35,430 for the ASU from fall semester enrollment.
Most students are still unaware the waiver even exists.
Nursing major Michael Hee was unaware of the waiver’s existence. “I didn’t mind paying an extra $5, but I had no idea there was a possibility to opt out of the fee,” Hee said.
Psychology major Sergio Courtez agrees. “That’s interesting. I wasn’t even aware that we had a student activity fee or even a way of waiving this fee,” Courtez said.
Ramos said the ASU does not want to be seen as using the money frivolously so the student government has been working toward finding where the money can be put to best use around campus.
“This is the first time our ASU has really had this much money to work with,” she said. “So (the ASU) is trying its best to slowly allocate the funds appropriately for the campus.”
Approximately $12,000 has been spent this semester so far, she said. “(Funds have gone to) the Emergency Transportation fund, the ASU Meet and Greet, Welcome Week and other events,” Ramos said.