After 10 years of experience as a small businessman, Steve Johnson never expected to come back to CSU as an adult learner in the mechanical engineering program.
However, in 2009, after losing his business, Johnson said he felt enrolling in classes was his only option. But, as a 28-year-old student, he also said there were days he felt so overwhelmed he nearly threw in the towel.
â€œI was in a position where I was $70,000 in debt, my best option was to come back to get an education,â€ he said. â€œIt was a real challenge but there was always one or two veterans who would sit me down and say â€” do not stop.â€
This is why Johnson stood in front of the Associated Students of CSU Senate Wednesday night to endorse a student fee increase for the Adult Learner and Veteran Services office.
As an ALVS liaison for the Student Fee Review Board, Johnson explained that the fee would help pay for additional staffing in the ALVS office and would increase the current fee by more than 172 percent.
While Johnson acknowledged the $5.02 fee is large, according to him the increase is essential to the officeâ€™s operations.
â€œWe need to solidify and consolidate our program, we have a specific set of needs and we are not looking to expand beyond that,â€ Johnson said.
At the end of the discussion co-presenter and SFRB Vice Chair Wendy Bowling called for a casual vote to gauge senates general position. While Johnson expected the vote to be split, a majority of senators supported the proposal with 10 supporting and four opposing the fee.
For Senator Peter Riedo, while Johnsonâ€™s testimony was â€œbeneficial,â€ his support came from his interest in the success of non-traditional students at CSU.
â€œI think itâ€™s a great opportunity to support our adult and veteran students and I think itâ€™s necessary because they bring a lot to CSU,â€ he said.
But for fellow Senator Andy Shank, increasing fees for students is a lot like increasing taxes for citizens: it should be done with scrutiny. According to him, he generally only supports increases to maintain current operations, which is why he voted no.
â€œWhen student government decides on fees, what we are doing is deciding how to spend peopleâ€™s money. If we vote for a fee increase we are voting for the students to pay more money,â€ Shank said. â€œTheir proposal is really very large and a lot of that seems to be new programs and I canâ€™t really favor their proposal because it hasnâ€™t been very transparent.â€
The full proposal went before the Student Fee Review Board on Monday and, according to Wendy Bowling, many board members had similar sentiments and recommended that ALVS come back with an in-depth look at each portion of the budget.
According Senator Jack Harries, it comes down to the fact that the general student body cannot afford to shoulder an additional fee of this size.
â€œThe percentage that they are asking for is concerning,â€ Harries said. â€œIt does worry me a little bit that students are going to have to be paying a large fee increase at a time when itâ€™s not ideal.â€
ASCSU Beat Reporter Sarah Fenton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.