Law allows student fee to increase
AB 1358 mandates funding for college lobbyist organization
Published: Saturday, October 26, 2013
Updated: Saturday, October 26, 2013 13:10
The California Legislature passed, and on Oct. 10 Gov. Jerry Brown signed, Assembly Bill 1358, which gives individual student governments the ability to increase their college’s student representation fee.
The old law allowed for student governments to hold elections that require two-thirds of students participating to vote in favor of a $1 student representation fee, before it could be implemented.
Under AB 1358, student governments can now hold elections for a $2 student representation fee. The new law only requires a simple majority (one more than 50 percent) to pass. The extra dollar will then be donated to the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.
The SSCCC is an organization whose goal is to represent community college students’ interests at the state level. They have, in the past, opposed student fee increases.
SSCCC President Rich Copenhagen said, “The SSCCC opposes enrollment and other service-related fee increases that provide for services which we believe should be subsidized by the state.”
Copenhagen justified the SSCCC’s sponsorship of AB 1358 by saying the board of the SSCCC does not believe student representation is something the state should subsidize.
Copenhagen said the SSCCC approached Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), who sponsored the bill in the Legislature.
Fong said, “With a sustainable funding source, community college students will have a greater presence in advocacy, similar to their counterparts at the UC and CSU levels.”
The California Community College Board of Governors has recognized the SSCCC as the body that represents community college students statewide, Fong said. Echoing Fong’s comments, Copenhagen said that the SSCCC is currently named in Title 5 as the organization that represents the students of the California Community College system.
The bill passed the Legislature by a vote of 48-29, with one member of the Assembly absent for the vote.
The bill was not without its critics. Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills), who voted against the AB 1358, said he opposed it mainly due to the lower percentage of votes needed to pass the fee.
“It’s trying to unionize our students,” Hagman said. “There’s a big wave to bring (elections for) fee increases down to a simple majority. The general concept is to force everyone into paying for representation that they have no control of.”
Hagman said that the fee increase is not being handled in a democratic way.
“We want people to be able to vote for their representatives,” he said. “Students will not have control where money goes, and that just is not democratic.”
Fong and Copenhagen disagree with Hagman on the voter threshold.
“The vote threshold change (to a simple majority) is in line with changes being carried forward in much of state politics, including the bond measure threshold,” Copenhagen said. “Because the fee only requires a majority vote to be eliminated on a campus, it makes sense that a majority should be needed to adopt it.”
Fong said that the threshold was lowered because the fee has been difficult for some college campuses to establish. He said that the burden of acquiring a super majority of voting students was too much for the student governments at some colleges, and the lower threshold will make it easier to get the fee passed.
Contra Costa College’s Associated Students Union President Ysrael Condori said that he believes supporting AB 1358 is out-of-line with the SSCCC’s goal and vision.
“I think the last thing students need is an increase in fees,” Condori said.
He said that with questions on how the student activity fee is being spent still present, that the ASU has no plans to hold an election to increase the student representation fee to $2.
“Though I do think a simple majority still represents the interest of students,” he said.
Copenhagen said, “The bill comes from over 40 years of funding-related challenges which statewide community college student organizations have faced.”
Condori said he believes the SSCCC would like to purchase another office for itself or a small office building with the new funds.
The SSCCC, according to Copenhagen, has been instrumental in passing legislation to create the associate degree for transfer program (SB 1440).
Copenhagen said, “(The SSCCC has) fought off proposals to cap students taking classes at 90 lifetime units.”
Copenhagen also credited his organization with securing priority enrollment for CalWORKs students, and in passing SB1052, and SB1053, which will assist students in paying for textbooks.