UC Berkeley students pay more than $1,000 per year in campus-based fees

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UC Berkeley students currently pay 12 student fees — totaling more than $1,100 per student per year — that have been passed in various ASUC elections throughout the past two decades.

The fees, many implemented beginning in the late 1900s, currently range from $2 to $150. The largest fee, $150 per semester, is the Bringing Energy and Revitalization of Sproul Initiative fee, which was passed by students in 2010 to help revitalize Lower Sproul. This fee is followed closely by the $146 Wellness Referendum fee, voted in last year.

Some recent UC Berkeley-based fees include the Giving Opportunities and Leadership Development fee, the Class Pass fee for AC Transit and the Student Technology fee. The 13th campus-based fee, called the Life Safety fee, was not added through a referendum and was instead approved by the UC Board of Regents.

In the 2010-11 academic year, 11 campus-based fees totaled $637.50 per student per year, compared with five fees totaling $157.50 12 years before, according to a blog by the campus’s Committee on Student Fees, or CSF. For the 2015-16 academic year, there are 13 fees, totaling about $1,200 per student per year.

“I have observed that it is becoming more common for referenda to have fee increases built in to cover predicted cost increases, such as annual increases to salaries and benefits,” said Bene Gatzert, member of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees, or CACSSF, in an email.

CACSSF, convened in 2006, is responsible for campuswide strategic fee planning and working with other campus committees to facilitate communication around student fees and services.

In order to create a student fee referendum, a campus department must first receive concept approval from the Student Fee Referenda Committee. For a student-initiated referendum, concept approval is not required, but it must fulfill the ASUC requirements — such as signed petitions or ASUC Senate approval — in order to qualify for appearance on the ASUC ballot.

Any new campus-based fee must be approved through a majority vote in a student referendum, with 20 percent minimum voter turnout, according to the CSF blog. UC chancellors, however, may create a fee without a student referendum if it is for health, safety or legal reasons.

Two out of four referendums on the ASUC 2016 elections ballot discussed during Tuesday night’s election forum include student fees. The referendums include the Ink Initiative fee and The Green Initiative Fund, or TGIF.

The Ink Initiative would establish a $2.50 semesterly fee supporting The Daily Californian’s operations and would replace the V.O.I.C.E. fee, a $2 semesterly fee approved by the student body in 2012 that is set to expire in 2017.

The TGIF fee referendum asks students to support an $8-per-semester student fee to fund campus sustainability projects. The student body originally passed TGIF in 2007 as a $5 fee, which increased to $6 over 10 years. If passed, the fee, set to expire in 2017, would last another 10 years to 2027, and the per-student fee would increase by $1 every three years to cover the cost of inflation and to fund increased demand for future projects.

One-third of all student fees are returned to financial aid, in accordance with campus policy.

According to Gatzert, the 33 percent return-to-aid policy was put in place in 2007 to help campus financial aid programs cover the cost of campus-based fees for students with the most need.

The ASUC elections will take place April 4, 5 and 6.

Sujin Shin covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sujinjshin.