State

Cal State Stanislaus to Students: Pay on time

TURLOCK -- Starting in the spring, students who don't pay their fees on time will be disenrolled at California State University, Stanislaus.

It's not actually a new policy, said Lisa Bernardo, interim associate vice president for enrollment management at the university. But it's new enforcement.

"It's been the policy in our catalog," she said. "But we've never followed through on it."

About 800 to 1,000 students don't pay their fees on time, Bernardo said. But they can remain in their classes, although they do accrue late fees -- up to $75 -- that must be paid before they register for the next semester.

Students, already fighting for limited space in fewer classes because of budget cuts, now face losing those classes if they don't pay.

"For me, it's not a concern, but I have friends who are worried," said freshman Rebecca Roman, 18, of Modesto. "Especially with the economy the way it is, people don't have the money right now."

Bernardo said her office is working hard to make sure students are aware of the procedures before Jan. 19 -- the first due date of the spring semester. Anyone who has a balance of $375 or more as of 5 p.m. on that date will be disenrolled. Students can re-enroll the next day, but it's unlikely they'll be able to get into the same classes.

A series of posters is being placed around campus. Students are getting e-mail reminders and fliers. Finance representatives talked to parents at campus preview events.

A Web site allows students to send officials questions; so far, Bernardo said, there have only been a handful. It's likely that attention will ramp up as the spring semester draws closer.

University spokeswoman Kristin Olsen said the public relations blitz is intended to be eye-catching.

"Our goal is to reach every student," she said.

Bernardo said it's her goal that nobody gets disenrolled, although she said that's not likely. A test run this semester showed about 1,000 students who owed the university.

It's just a coincidence that the change comes at the same time budget cuts and layoffs have resulted in fewer classes and reductions in enrollment. But Bernardo said the timing is fortuitous, because this is no time to have a nonpaying student taking a seat -- or just a spot on the roll -- from a student who pays.

"We are the last CSU to implement this," she said.

Junior colleges also require payment before classes begin.

Stanislaus officials have been talking about enforcing the policy for several years, but didn't have the technology to do so. They decided to wait until spring instead of starting in the fall so students would already be on campus so they could stay informed about the policy and ask questions about it.

Exceptions to the policy are made for students who are on financial aid. Those who can't make the full payment at once can set up a payment plan.

Other case-by-case exceptions are not likely.

"Unfortunately, there's always going to be a reason," Bernardo said. "If you allow one, you have to allow many. We're trying to offer them as many options as possible to make the deadlines."

Sophomore Jeanette Ochoa said she and her friends haven't talked much about the policy, although she's seen the signs and heard what's coming.

"Of course it's a concern," said the 19-year-old from Kerman, west of Fresno. "It is really, really hard to get into classes. With what they're doing, it's even harder."

More information is available online at www.csustan.edu/coveryourclass.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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