Months after rolling out the first phase of the controversial Student Success Fee, San Diego State University has yet to deliver on one of its core promises.
Earlier this year, SDSU’s Campus Fee Advisory Committee proposed a $200 fee on students, which was then approved by university President Elliot Hirshman in March. The fee would be rolled out in tiers: $50 per semester this first year, for a total of $100.
By the end of the year, the school will have already collected $3 million. By fall of 2017, that fee will bump up to $200 each semester.
Those extra dollars are supposed to help the university cushion a $78 million cut from the state that spans over several years. SDSU is one of 12 California State University campuses with its own Student Success Fee.
Now that the fee has a few months under its belt, we decided to check in on how SDSU is following through on its promises to students.
Promise Deferred: 80 New Professors
In the initial proposal, students were told 80 new faculty members would be hired with the help of their extra dollars, but nearly a semester in, no new professors have been hired at SDSU as a result of the Student Success Fee.
But that was always part of the plan, said Kathryn LaMaster, associate vice president for academic affairs at SDSU.
LaMaster said the hiring process started immediately after the fee was approved, but hiring faculty usually takes about six to nine months. The school has to form a search committee, then allot at least another two months to post each job and get responses, and then take the time time to sort, interview and select new faculty members.
To be sure, the school has hired some new professors this year, but none thanks to the fee itself.
The U-T reported in August that 54 new tenure track faculty were hired due to a “systemwide hiring surge underway at the California State University and other state-funded campuses to rebuild from the drastic cuts imposed during years of belt-tightening in Sacramento.”
LaMaster said the school is currently searching for 62 new faculty members to begin next fall. Of those positions, 35 will be funded by the fee. On average, these faculty members will be paid salaries of $80,000.
Promise Delivered: 51 More Class Sections
The administration has made good on one promise for the fee: bolstering class sections. So far, 51 class sections have been added to 36 existing courses.
These courses were selected based on student feedback, recommendations from the associate deans of each college and a course demand report. More sections will be added next semester for a total of 90 new ones for the academic year.
All together, these sections have already accommodated 2,012 students with a 93 percent fill rate, LaMaster said.
In four years, the fee is expected to fund an added 360 sections each year.
The Future of the Fee
The fee is projected to generate $12.5 million in annual revenue for the university when it’s rolled out in its fullest form. Of these funds, 90 percent will go toward hiring tenure-track faculty and adding class sections. The remaining 10 percent will be used to expand academic-related programs.
Students will have a say on what those programs look like. Those in each college will have the opportunity every year to submit proposals. LaMaster has seen a wide range of ideas already, everything from adding guest speakers to supplies for school-related projects.
“It’s always students reviewing student proposals and students funding students,” LaMaster said.
Two hundred proposals from the colleges have flooded in this year, all vying for about $300,000 of the collected Student Success Fee funds. The proposals that are approved will receive funding and go into effect in January.