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UCSA Proposes New Model for Funding: Student Voluntary Fee

The University of California Student Association (UCSA) shared with the ASUCI Legislative Council last Thursday that they are currently developing a proposal in which they would collect funding directly from UC students through a voluntary fee.

The proposal, also known as the Student Advocacy and Engagement (SAGE) Proposal, puts forward that the fee would ideally appear as one of the fees paid during school registration, but it will include an option to opt out.

“What we are proposing to do is to move towards a democratic model where students have the ability to opt out if they choose. It is a voluntary fee of between four to six dollars,” said UCSA President Kevin Sabo to the ASUCI Legislative Council at the meeting. “We are still trying to figure out what that would look like per year. But it would be moving effectively from…an all-or-nothing [model] where every student is represented in UCSA and pays it or not to a democratic model where each individual student has the option to decide.”

The current model for financially supporting UCSA heavily depends on mandatory membership dues from UC undergraduate, graduate, or professional student associations and additional funding from the UC Office of the President and grants. The SAGE proposal, however, would modify this model by not asking associations for funding, but directly collecting it from students instead through.

According to UCSA, this new model would mend some of the problems apparent in the current funding model. Firstly, it would promote more student representation.

“It is [currently] a pay-to-play system, and right now graduate students at UCLA and UC San Diego don’t pay or can’t pay, and therefore are not represented. That’s about 8 percent of UC students — almost one in ten — that just aren’t represented on the UCSA board,” said Sabo.

Furthermore, it would address fallout from controversial decisions. The SAGE Proposal would “level out the field,” since currently, some associations pay different dues. In addition, relief would be brought to the issues of budget unpredictability, restraints on staff retention and due stagnation over time.

Council members of the ASUCI Legislative Council, however, brought up many of their concerns in relation to the opt-out fee. Although UCSA claims this is an administrative change as it would be a different means of collecting funds, a UCI student in the public shared during the legislative council meeting that it would essentially appear as a new fee to students.

ASUCI President Parshan Khosravi also shared his input and concerns over the proposed fee, and although he understood why many organizations may be supportive of its efficiency to save funding for associations, he called for other aspects to be weighed.

Khosravi and fellow legislative council members, overall, shared disagreement with the adoption of the fee. They asked if an advisory committee was overseeing it, and called for further models to be considered.

“It is to our belief that SAGE is not even the model that should be appropriate. You should look into models that are actually feasible [and] that would still hold UCSA accountable,” said Council Speaker and At-Large Representative Alvin Phan to Sabo.

While Sabo shared that a similar model has proven successful by other schools such as some Cal States, Khosravi highlighted that it is still a very new model that needs more time to show its effectiveness. He also noted that some colleges like Cal State, community colleges and universities all carry different dynamics that should be weighed.

UCSA is still in conversation with other schools regarding this proposal and is solely seeking input right now. The association has a survey available on its website where they  are currently accepting feedback.