By Katy Murphy
Education Reporter, Bay Area News Group
Next week, when California State University trustees meet in Long Beach, they will consider the age-old "super senior" problem in a new way -- through extra fees.
If the trustees approve, starting next fall, students who retake a class, or take a long time to graduate, or who sign up for more than a full course load in a semester would be charged extra for it.
The CSU administration says this plan would give students an incentive to move through their studies efficiently, making way for more new students and to improve access to courses.
The intent isn't to generate more money -- though it would bring in an estimated $30 million in the first year -- but to make the system more efficient and to admit up to 18,000 more students, said Michael Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the chancellor's office. Budget cutbacks have forced the system to turn away eligible applicants in recent years.
In response, students have organized protests on campuses including Cal State East Bay, San Francisco State and San Jose State. They argue that the university shouldn't "blame students for a broken system," but address issues of access and timely graduation by opening more sections and improving academic advising.
The Cal State fees under consideration:
Graduation Incentive Fee: In-state seniors who have earned 160 semester (or 240 quarter) credits or more would pay the same rate as nonresidents. That amounts to $372 per semester unit and $248 per quarter unit. CSU officials estimate it has roughly 9,000 so-called "super seniors."
Third-Tier Tuition Fee: A full course load is 15 units, or five courses. If in-state students want to take any more than that, they would be charged extra for the 18th unit and beyond -- $182 per semester (per unit) or $122 per quarter.
Course Repeat Fee: CSU estimates its students, systemwide, repeat 80,000 classes every academic year, taking spaces that other students could use. To free up those spaces and maximize academic effort, the university would charge students $91 per semester unit and $61 per quarter unit to take a class again.