State

CSUS student union fee a hard sell

TURLOCK — Students at California State University, Stanislaus, faced with rising education costs, will be asked to vote themselves another fee increase at the end of this month.

Voting is set March 29-30 at the Turlock campus and its Stockton satellite. If a majority of votes are in favor, student union fees will go up $50 each year through 2014. Students pay $140 a year in student union fees now.

Those behind the effort admit it's a tricky sell in an economy that has brought about job losses and already higher fees. Two earlier referenda to improve the student union failed.

"It's a challenge now. But it would be a challenge 10 years from now," said Bryce Dias, a graduate student who is chairman of the University Student Union board of directors. "We were committed to the project early on."

Dias said there is a bright side to the downturn. "In this economy, (design and construction) bids are coming in way cheaper," he said. "We're getting the project for a huge discount."

And, he pointed out, the new student union would bring in jobs, from construction to staffing. Plans call for a commuter lounge, showers and lockers; a place for speakers to address groups; even, potentially, a day care center for children of students.

"A lot of students don't have any reason to stick around," Dias said. "They eat lunch in their car. We want to provide a place for everybody, not just the intentional, active student."

The project is estimated to cost $27 million and open in September 2014. Dias said backers are careful not to put together a specific plan yet, citing concerns that stemmed from an earlier student-funded project.

Sports complex 'a fiasco'

In 2006, students elected to pay $80 more a semester to fund a $16.2 million sports and recreation complex on the east side of campus. The complex came in above estimated costs and the opening was delayed by a year. The complex opened in 2009.

"It was kind of a fiasco," Dias said.

The 2006 vote got 68 percent approval from 1,100 students who voted.

Christina Kelley, another project supporter, said the reaction has been "pretty mixed."

Kelley and Dias are quick to point out to detractors that this is a student-led project.

"People are angry with campus administrators for cutting classes," Dias said. "But this has been student-driven since Day One."

The new fee is going to be a hard sell with Priscilla Martinez and Martha Jaureguy. Both were in the student union Wednesday.

"Fees are already too expensive," said Martinez, 21. "Tuition has been going up every year. Sure, you can get financial aid, but it's not going to cover all the expenses you have."

Jaureguy, 20, agreed. "If anything, we need classes and teachers," she said.

Kelly is hoping to convince them, and others, that the project is worthwhile.

"Thirty years ago, students voted to invest in the future students of their university (and build the original student union)," Kelley said. "That's what we're asking students to do: Make an investment into future students and build a legacy."

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

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