The Student Success Fee Allocation Advisory Committee is on its way to having a budget recommendation prepared by the end of the quarter. Associated Students, Inc. President Kiyana Tabrizi said she is prepared to make unpopular choices to help the university.
Tabrizi, a graduating political science senior and co-chair of the committee, said she sees value in increasing funding to some programs that are not used by the majority of students on campus, such as health and counseling services and athletics. She said the committee recognizes many students may not individually feel the need to increase funding to these programs, but for some, the need is dire.
“We were prepared to make tough decisions when funding health and counseling, even though a lot of students won’t see that need,” Tabrizi said.
Athletics was a controversial topic leading up to a February referendum on the Student Success Fee. Though 56 percent of voting students approved of the fee, many informal discussions before the vote indicated students would rather see funds go toward academics than sports.
But Cal Poly’s athletics will be adversely affected by the rise of tuition brought by the $160 increase of the Student Success Fee in fall. Though the department needs to distribute the same number of scholarships in order to stay Division I, each will cost $160 more.
“With the tuition increases at the student level, residential life fee level and tuition level, athletics just keeps going in the hole without getting more money,” Tabrizi said. “A lot of people can say that athletics leads to student success and Learn By Doing. Personally, I believe it. They work very hard to maintain grades in difficult majors while physically exhausted and representing Cal Poly at a different level.”
Mathematics freshman Michael Clemmensen wrestles for Cal Poly, but is not on scholarship. Even though he does not see much money coming into the program for scholarships, he said the facilities his team uses are indicative of the program’s financial needs.
“Our locker room, I think, hasn’t been washed in three years,” he said. “It’s pretty dirty and we keep losing our towels and clothes because of the laundry system.”
Cal Poly Health and Counseling Services is also in need of more cash in its direction, head of counseling services Bruce Meyer wrote in an email. He said students routinely wait more than four weeks for an appointment with university counselors, which results in expensive off-campus referrals.
“Many students referred to off-campus providers do not make the transition for a variety of reasons, including financial,” Meyer wrote. “Our follow-up of outside referrals in previous years suggests that almost half of students referred off campus will not actually complete the referral and receive the needed services.”
After receiving recommendations from university vice presidents on how to spend the money at the committee’s last meeting on May 23, Tabrizi and fellow co-chair Larry Kelley asked each of the nine other members to create their own plan to spend the Student Success Fee’s projected $8 million revenue for next year. Everything is still under consideration, though, she said, and what the committee has discussed so far are just proposed ideas.
Tabrizi said Tuesday that she and Kelley, Cal Poly’s vice president of administration and finance, would review the plans to see what common funding priorities were represented. She said the goal would be to reach a consensus and try to target funds toward what students prioritized in a campus-wide survey conducted in early May.
In an email to students, Tabrizi and Kelley said of the students who voted in the survey, more than three-fourths indicated they were in favor of spending money on access to classes. A possible plan moving forward, Tabrizi said, is to fund what programs are desperate for cash, then allocate the rest toward academics.
“If it’s not a dire need, everything just gets dumped into classes and ‘Learn By Doing,’” Tabrizi said.
But even after the vice presidents’ recommendations, a significant question still faces the committee: Will the revenue fund university enhancement or will it maintain the status quo?
Looming over the entire process is the potential $250 million state funding cut from the California State University next year. Early estimates show it would trickle down to at least $13 million at Cal Poly, which would outweigh the Student Success Fee’s revenue by millions.
Tabrizi said she plans to move forward — despite the potential cut — so that the university can succeed in the long term, even if it means more cost cutting now.
“We’re in this unique climate — that’s why, when we’re talking about creating a budget with the $250 million versus without the $250 million, it does not make sense to me because we’re so far underground,” Tabrizi said. “We need to come up to breathe.”
Academic Senate Chair Rachel Fernflores, however, has a different opinion on the cut’s potential. She said Tabrizi’s plan to keep moving forward regardless of what happens with the “trigger cut” is ideal, but may not be realistic.
“We’re not in a position to have just one plan,” Fernflores said. “If there is a trigger cut, that number is more than a $16 million cut from the university. That’s a big difference.”
Fernflores chose not to submit a plan to Tabrizi and Kelley on Tuesday, instead she said she felt her input had been contributed at the committee’s meetings. She said she has been an advocate for transparency throughout the process and brings the opinion of someone who will be here long after the seven students on the committee graduate.
When asked if the committee needs to focus on maintaining what Cal Poly already has or enhancing its programs, she said the answer to the question is not an easy one; it is something that continues to concern her as the committee moves forward.
“It worries me that our students (on the committee) might feel the need to enhance at this time,” Fernflores said. “Even if we don’t get any more cuts, we’re still millions short of what we were a few years ago.”