Post Classifieds

College mishandles activity fee

Students unaware, left to pay charge

By Rodney Woodson. editor-in-chief
On November 5, 2012

Approved by a unanimous vote of the district Governing Board on May 25, 2011, the $5 student activity fee is an optional charge implemented to procure funds for use by the student governments across the district.
To opt out of the charge, Contra Costa College students are required to complete a fee waiver form, attainable at the Student Life Office, and turn it in to the ASU during the first two weeks of instruction each semester.
Board report 81-A states that the fee went into effect spring semester 2012, however former ASU president Rodney Wilson relayed improper information to the student government.
"I was under the impression (the fee) was not going to be assessed until fall of 2012," he said. "The ASU didn't know the fee was being charged in the spring until students came to the office upset."
Consequently, CCC students were not informed of the fee last spring and did not have an opportunity to complete the fee waiver form by the required deadline.
Student complaints about the fee began in spring 2012 and continue this semester. There are students on campus who still aren't aware of the fee or the waiver option and others who just recently found out about them.
"I just found out yesterday that I could opt out of it," CCC student Darren Turner said as he stood outside of the Library and Learning Resource Center the afternoon of Oct. 22. "I just think it's another way to get money."
Turner said he did not know about the fee waiver, even after receiving an email notifying him of the $5 charge during the spring semester and he went into the Student Life Office to find out what he was being charged for.
Students were forced to pay the fee or they would not be able to enroll in fall semester courses.
Turner said there should be better efforts made to promote the fee and the waiver to the student body.
"(The ASU) needs to put up a big poster," Turner said. "They need to put the waiver on the website and send students emails."
Nursing major Chris Bustos is another student who found out about the fee and the fee waiver by receiving an email stating he had an outstanding balance of $5 during spring 2012. Unlike a lot of other students, Bustos does not think the fee is much to be upset about.
"In my nursing class there were a lot of students who felt they shouldn't have to pay the fee," Bustos said. "I don't think it's that big of a deal. But, if you don't have it you shouldn't have to pay it. On a larger scale - what's five bucks really? Personally, I have $5 and I don't mind. It's nice to give back, especially if I can afford it."
Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, district vice chancellor of education and technology, stressed the importance of educating the students about the fee.
"It is very important that it is very clearly articulated that the fee is optional," she said.
Although there has been no discussion about giving students a refund, Mehdizadeh said returning the money is not out of the question.
"Obviously, if it is determined that the fee waiver was not properly promoted to the students, the decision from the board will be to issue refunds," she said.
Angry students entered the Student Life Office during spring semester to complain and inquire about the fee after receiving emails from the college stating that they would not be allowed to enroll in classes for upcoming semesters unless the $5 was paid.
Upon their inquiries, students were also informed of the option to waive the fee, however, when they were told, the two week opt out period had long since ended.
Student Life Coordinator Kelly Ramos said, "This was a fee that was supposed to be marketed by students. The problem with that is students learn by trial and error."
The Student Life Office and Admissions and Records are in charge of enforcing, overseeing and promoting both the fee and fee waiver, yet, a lack of cooperation brought more confusion.
Ramos said there was miscommunication between both offices because the departments were not consulting one another about the fee.
"The issue that we have is when the Admissions and Records director was sending out notices to students for fee requirements and deadlines, the student activity fee and the fee waiver were not included," she said.
A decline in revenue for student organizations prompted the Student Trustee Advisory Committee (STAC) to propose the student activity fee to the Governing Board. STAC  consists of the student union presidents from each college (CCC, Diablo Valley and Los Medanos) in the district.
In addition to the activity fee, student unions receive a percentage allotment from respective campus bookstores depending on each store's net annual income. Before the activity fee, bookstore revenue was each student union's primary source of revenue, used to fund campus events, student clubs and field trips.
The bookstore allotment, as outlined in District Business Procedure 4.01, is 2.25 percent unless a bookstore brings in more than $50,000 in a year. Then the allotment is 3 percent.
Revenue can be used to fund student services or property improvements, such as parking facilities, student centers and student unions.
CCC students can access the waiver form from the college's website by clicking the student services tab then selecting the ASU link on the left column.
Although the fee waiver is now on the CCC website, as it has been on other campus' sites across the district since spring 2012, the ASU did not make the form available on the web until Oct. 12.
"The college did not adequately inform the students of the waiver," Interim Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson said.
Ferguson said not having a "webmaster," someone specifically in charge of posting information on the CCC website, contributed to the delay of getting the waiver online.
"A lot of things that we are putting on our website, we have to rely on staff. It's not an excuse, it's just how it is," Ferguson said. "The fee and the fee waiver should have been marketed during the fall semester (2011). Unfortunately, this is what happens when leadership changes - it's easy to let things slip through the cracks."
Earlier this year Director of Admissions and Records Michael Aldaco went out on leave and over the summer Wilson was replaced by Jazmine Ramezanzadeh as ASU president.
Ferguson said information regarding the fee and waiver form must be relayed to the student body, but students should be proactive in checking the avenues in which the college communicates.
"It's no different than financial aid sending out email blasts about the new repeatability policy," she said.
"But students have to open up their email to read it. My thoughts are that we, at least, need to provide the information."
"I find that students who are actively on their portal tend to be more savvy in terms of campus information," Ferguson said.
The $5 is not covered by the Board of Governors fee waiver grant.

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