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- Appendix A—Campus Compliance With the Fee Policy Requirements for Consulting With Students
- Appendix B—Systemwide Mandatory Fees
- Appendix C—Scope and Methodology
Campus Compliance With the Fee Policy Requirements for Consulting With Students
As we discuss in the Introduction, the fee policy establishes requirements for campuses to consult with students when proposing to create or increase mandatory fees. To evaluate whether the four campuses we reviewed complied with these requirements, we analyzed the consultation processes that they conducted for 13 proposed new fees and fee increases during academic years 2011–12 through 2018–19. Table A identifies whether campuses complied, partially complied, or did not comply with the fee policy requirements. In the Audit Results section of this report, we discuss most instances of noncompliance that we identified. However, as we also explain in the report, many requirements are so broad that we have concerns about the thoroughness and inclusiveness of the consultation processes that the campuses used even though the processes complied with the fee policy.
As we describe in the Introduction, the fee policy directs campuses to consult with students through either of two processes: a student vote or a process the policy calls alternative consultation. The fee policy establishes different requirements for these two processes; therefore, depending on the process a campus used for a given fee, some requirements may not be applicable. Additionally, campuses' associated student organizations conducted the student votes for three of the fee proposals we reviewed. Under the fee policy, student votes conducted by the associated student organizations are not subject to the policy's requirements. However, we believe that because students are required to pay these mandatory fees to enroll and campus presidents have ultimate responsibility for all fee increases, all voting processes should be subject to the same requirements. The Table therefore indicates whether all consultation processes, including those that associated students organizations conducted, met the fee policy's requirements.
In some cases, campuses partially complied with requirements while still not meeting certain technical aspects. For example, when Chico State held a vote for three fee proposals in 2018, it published a required voter pamphlet in the student newspaper three days later than the time frame allowed by the fee policy; however, the campus did publish the pamphlet information on its website in a timely manner. Additionally, the fee policy requires this sort of pamphlet to include statements—solicited by the campus's CFAC—for and against the fee proposal as well as an objective analysis. However, several campuses published fee pamphlets that did not contain both statements for and against their fee proposals. The Chancellor's Office told us that if a CFAC solicits but does not receive a statement against a proposed fee, it is not required to publish a statement at all. However, given a CFAC's role in helping generate objective fee information for students to evaluate, it is reasonable to expect a CFAC to develop a meaningful statement on its own if no other party submits one.
|PROPOSED FEE||Student Vote Requirements||Alternative Consultation Requirements||Student Vote and Alternative Consultation Requirements|
|Voting Process: The president, in consultation with the student association and the faculty senate, shall develop guidelines applicable to the student fee referendum process designed to assure that the vote is open, fair, and objective.||Voting Pamphlet: The CFAC shall issue a voter pamphlet providing objective analysis of the proposed fee action and statements solicited by the committee for and against the proposed fee action.||Voting Pamphlet Publication: Copies of the pamphlet and ballot/voting information shall be available to students and published in the campus newspaper and in other public locations around campus at least 30 days before the vote.||Consultation Process: Alternative consultation strategies shall be developed with input from the student association and the CFAC to ensure that the process is transparent and meaningful.||Fee Information: Written material regarding the fee proposal should follow the same guidelines as a voter pamphlet, including the objective analysis and statements solicited by the CFAC for and against the proposed fee action.||Student Involvement: The campus should consult with any constituencies affected by the fee proposal, including a representative sample of students.||Consultation Results: Results of the alternative consultation process should be summarized and put in writing and used as additional advisory material to be taken into consideration by the CFAC and the president.||Recommendation: The CFAC shall consider proposals for the establishment and adjustment of fees and shall then make a recommendation to the campus president.|
|Student Success Fee (2012)—Student Vote*||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Campus Academic Fee (2014)—Student Vote||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Student Union Fee (2016)—Student Vote||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Health Services Fee (2018)—Alternative Consultation||NA||NA||NA|
|Opportunity Fee (2019)—Alternative Consultation||NA||NA||NA|
|Student Learning Fee (2018)—Student Vote*||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Health Services Fee (2018)—Student Vote*||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Instructionally Related Activities Athletics Fee (2018)—Student Vote*||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|San Diego State|
|Student Success Fee (2014)—Alternative Consultation||NA||NA||NA|
|Student Union Fee (2018)—Student Vote||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|San José State|
|Student Success, Excellence, and Technology Fee (2012) —Alternative Consultation||NA||NA||NA|
|Associated Student Fee (2013)—Student Vote||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Health Services/Facilities Fee (2018)—Alternative Consultation||NA||NA||NA|
Source: Analysis of campus materials pertaining to mandatory fee proposals and review of fee policy.
* For this fee proposal, the campus initially proposed using alternative consultation before concluding the consultation process with a formal student vote. We therefore tested campus compliance with fee policy requirements for student votes.
NA = Not applicable.Fully complied with fee policy requirements. Generally complied with fee policy requirements but failed to meet certain technical aspects. Did not substantively comply with fee policy requirements.
Systemwide Mandatory Fees
As we discuss in the Introduction, mandatory fee amounts vary widely across the 23 CSU campuses. Not all campuses charge students every type of fee, and the amounts campuses charge differ within fee types. Table B provides the amount students at each of the campuses had to pay in academic year 2019–20 for each of the seven fee types. In addition, the Table includes the total amount of mandatory fees at each campus and the average fee amount across all 23 campuses for each fee type.
|Health Facilities||Health Services||Instructionally Related Activities||Materials Services & Facilities||Student Success*||Student Association*||Student Center*||Total|
|Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo)||11||636||330||1,241||878||341||764||4,201|
Source: Chancellor's Office.
* Students must approve by vote the establishment or adjustment of a student success fee or, in general, a student association fee; and students must also approve the establishment of a student union fee.
Scope and Methodology
The Audit Committee requested that the California State Auditor conduct an audit of CSU mandatory fees at Cal Poly, Chico State, San Diego State, and San José State to determine the types of expenditures the campuses have paid for with mandatory fee revenue and the information they made available to students about this spending. The Audit Committee also directed us to review the processes the campuses followed when proposing new mandatory fees or increases to existing mandatory fees. Finally, it asked that we assess the financial impact mandatory fees have had on students and how students have paid for rising fee costs at the four campuses. The Table lists the objectives that the Audit Committee approved and the methods we used to address them.
|1||Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit objectives.||Reviewed relevant laws, rules, regulations, and policies and procedures related to mandatory fees and oversight by the Chancellor's Office.|
|2||Identify any trustees' or Chancellor's Office's policies regarding the adoption of mandatory fees and what specific purposes or categories of expenditures are allowed for the revenue generated.||
For each of the specified campuses, review the applicable mandatory fees for the most recent five-year period in order to determine the following:
|4||Determine what accountability measures are in place at each campus to ensure that funds generated by mandatory fees are being spent appropriately. For a selection of expenditures, determine their appropriateness and whether they were made for the original purpose for which they were intended.||
|5||Determine whether mandatory fee revenues are funding programs or services that CSU is already required to provide through other revenue sources.||Reviewed state law to identify any restrictions on how campuses may use mandatory fee revenue or other sources of revenue. Under Objective 4, we determined whether campuses complied with any restrictions on the use of mandatory fee revenue.|
|6||Identify what mechanisms, if any, exist for students to be informed about how mandatory fees are being spent on their campus.||Refer to Objective 4.|
|7||Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.||Reviewed the Chancellor's Office's audits of the four campuses and determined that those audits did not find substantial issues with how campuses implemented or increased fees.|
Source: Analysis of the Audit Committee's audit request number 2019-114, as well as information and documentation identified in the column titled Method.
* San José State was not able to provide us with data regarding specifically how students paid mandatory fees, so we could not perform an equivalent analysis for that campus.
Assessment of Data Reliability
In performing this audit, we relied on the four campuses' financial records for all mandatory fees for fiscal years 2014–15 through 2018–19, and a selection of expenditures at each campus. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of the expenditure information we use to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations. To perform this assessment, we reviewed the descriptions of campus expenditures in the financial records and compared them to supporting documentation. We found that, with the exception of salaries and benefits, the data generally contained only broad descriptions about the nature of campus expenditures. Further, campuses did not always accurately or consistently categorize mandatory fee revenue expenditures in their financial records. As a result, the financial records alone are not sufficiently reliable for the purposes of determining the specific uses of fee revenue or whether those uses were appropriate and made for the original purpose for which they were intended. Although this determination may affect the precision of some of the numbers we present, there is sufficient evidence in total to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
We also relied on electronic data files from academic years 2014–15 and 2018–19 that we obtained from the three campuses we analyzed; these files track student payments at each campus. To perform this assessment, we evaluated the campuses' data against external documentation of the total amount disbursed to each campus from major grant sources and federal student loans. We determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of determining the percentage of students who paid for tuition and mandatory fees using various sources and the amounts they paid from each source. As we explain in the Audit Results section of this report, San José State was not able to provide us with data regarding how students paid mandatory fees, so we did not perform this assessment for that campus.