The organizers of the Sonoma State University Freedom from Fees Coalition are please to announce a decisive victory on February 19, 2014. After receiving 1,265 e-mails from students, faculty, alumni, and their families and friends the President of Sonoma State University withdrew his plans to impose a $500 fee on all students.

In an e-mail statement to the campus President Armiñana, stated, “We have also been receiving very detailed feedback from the Associated Student meetings. We hear the concern raised by students about the extra financial burden of this fee. We have decided, therefore, not to pursue the academic success fee at this time.”

Thank you everyone who pledge to never donate to Sonoma State University if the fee was implemented. This a solid win for low-income working class students. We are proud of our victory and encouraged that other campuses may think twice before trying to raise fees on students.

This model of a students, faculty and alumni boycott of donations is now part of an activist took kit for resisting top down CEO style university presidents and the arbitrary application of of higher tuition and fees at colleges nationwide.

Support Sonoma State University Student Rights for an Affordable Public College Education—Freedom From Fees 

Please Sign our petition in support of students and their families, and pledge to boycott future donations to Sonoma State University if the fee is not rescinded. *

Sonoma State University (SSU) President Ruben Armiñana is preparing to announce the imposition of a  $500 annual fee increase for all students in the fall of 2014. The proposed increase is called a “Success Fee” and would supposedly be used for more classes. The timing of the fee announcement comes just days after the ending of a registration crisis where many hundreds of students could not get the classes they need for graduation. Before 2011, fee increases required a campus wide student vote. The CSU Trustees now allow campus Presidents to impose fees with campus consultation only. In 1996, students at SSU voted down a proposed  $300 fee increase by a 2/3 margin.  

Top reasons to Oppose New Fees at Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University SSU) receives more than enough money from the State of California to provide classes for all students to graduate in a timely manner.  However, the money has been mismanaged by the President through a bloated administration, the diversion of campus resources to the management of the Green Music Center, and failure to use money from campus profit making enterprises to support classroom instruction.

SSU students already pay the third highest fees of the 23 CSU campuses. A $500 increase would put SSU as the highest cost liberal arts campus in the entire California State University (CSU) only slightly behind California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo)

Hundreds of SSU students will be forced to quit college if fees are raised by $500 and thousands are unsure if they could continue. In a survey of 300 students on campus in November of 2013 (90% Confidence level for 9,120 students) 8% answered no when asked if they could continue next year if fees were raised by $500 and 33% answered unsure. This survey is consistent with a survey completed in April of 2011.

Costs to attend SSU have increased 299% in ten years. In 2003, costs to attend SSU were $3,010. Ten years later the cost is $8,996.

SSU students graduate with the second highest amount of student loan debt in the CSU system.  62% of graduating SSU seniors in 2012 owed an average of $21,206. A $500 a year increase would add $2,000 or more to student debt making SSU the most debt burdened campus in the CSU system.

Increased costs will lower enrollment by working class and low-income families at SSU. A reduction in low-income working class families will also lower ethnic diversity at SSU.

SSU has a bloated administrative structure with the highest student to manager ratio in the CSU system and twice as many managers as similar size campuses. However, SSU Professors are the lowest paid on average in the entire CSU System.

SSU administration over the years has used lower portions of the state budget for academics. In 1999, SSU budgeted 55.1% of the state supported budget for academics, but in 2008-09, academics had been reduced to 48.35% of state funds.

Teaching and advising loads for tenure-track faculty continue to rise and student to advisor ratios are highest ever.  In 1993, SSU employed 236 tenure-track faculty teaching and advising 5,197 full time equivalent students. In 2013 employees 231 tenure-track faculty are teaching and advising 8,297 full time equivalent students. The current 293 part-time lecturers are not required nor paid to provide advising to students. Less tenure-track faculty are advising 60% more students than ten years ago.

SSU’s development office raises money primarily for buildings and the Green Music Center and not classroom instruction. SSU spends 76% of its donor gift disbursement distribution on buildings and other projects and only 18% on instructional programs. SSU’s ratio is the exact opposite of all other CSU campuses where the average donor gift disbursement to instructional programs is 63%.

SSU debts for construction exceed CSU standards. CSU Executive Order 944 requires the campus CFO to annually review the debt service coverage ratio (DSCR). As of June 2010, SSU’s DSCR was 1.4, which is greater then the state mandated DSCR limit of 1.35.

Analysis:  It is important to note that individual CSU campuses have internal flexibility in choosing to prioritize spending.  The SSU administration has consistently during the past 22 years demonstrated that academics are not the primary mission at SSU. This is why SSU has disproportionate administrative costs and the highest fees in the CSU, when most all other campuses prioritize campus resources for academics. It is also the reason why in 2007 faculty voted no confidence in President Armiñana. It is absolutely wrong to let the SSU administration get away with forcing students and their families to bail out their administrative mismanagement.


* Note: Our intent with a donations boycott is to put pressure in the SSU campus administration and the CSU Trustees (Such a boycott could spread to other campuses if successful at SSU). However, our intent is not to boycott donations to instructional programs and activities earmarked specifically for student education as athletics, individual departments, Holocaust Studies Center and other academic specific units. However, it is important that donors for such activities monitor the distribution of their monies as the campus administration is noted for the diversion of development funds for administrative activities.


Support for the factual statements above is available on line at the following URLs.

SSU Common Data Set

SSU Senate Budget Committee Chronicles

May 2007, 73.4% of SSU faculty Vote no confidence in President Arminana’s leadership.

The Financialization of Education and Sonoma State University

Green Music Centers Costs Steal Money from Students & Classes

Wasteful Spending at Sonoma State University

SSU and The Corporatization of Public Universities

Interviews of 16 Department Chairs at Sonoma State University during the spring 2012 semester indicate that over the past 15 years there has been an overall decline in the quality of education.

Occupied Sonoma State University: No Billionaire Left Behind and the sordid tale of the financialization and corporatization of one California State University

Fiscal Mismanagement Continues at SSU—Chronicles XXII 1-2-4

Flashing Red Lights at SSU: High Student Fees, Low Faculty Salaries, High Debt and Lots of Administrators

Sonoma State Student Center Could Bankrupt the Campus

SSU Administration Rigs Student Election for Fee Increase

Survey Shows SSU Students Oppose Fee Increase and Want More Classes

Report From The Senate Budget Committee Spring 2006

Summary from Senate Budget Report for 2005/06 In 2005/06 the Schools received less money (by 1 percent) than they did in 2001/02 at a time that the total sent to campus increased by 16 percent!

Sonoma State University 1994-2007: A Study of Student Racial Diversity and Family Income at SSU Compared to Other California State Universities

Latest Updates

My name is Shelby and I am a transfer student at ssu, a military wife, and work full time. I have been very frustrated with ssu this past semester. I struggle to pay fees and recieve financial aid in order to go to school. If I do not have 12 units each s... read more

Peter Phillips Professor Sociology SSU President Ruben Arminana Fits into the Neo-Liberal Agenda for Corporate Control of Universities There is a national neo-liberal agenda for reduction of spending on public colleges. In that process, tuition costs and ... read more

As college students, we should be given the opportunity to weigh in on decisions that affect our lives and that of those who may be helping to fund our education. Why not allow the students to vote on the issue instead of taking a sample of Associated Stu... read more

Alumni: Opposed the fee increase at SSU I graduated from SSU twice, with a BA in 1979 and with a MA in 82. In those days the cost of attending SSU was quite reasonable for the times and most that had the desire could afford to attend the school, although ... read more

Sociology Faculty As a graduate (Class of 1971) of and donor to this university (my sister and I endowed a student scholarship more than twenty years ago), as well as a member of the faculty for thirty six years, I object to the imposition of yet another ... read more

When I attended SSU I felt a huge disconnect between the administration and the students. It felt as if they had spent a lot of time creating a culture on campus that didn’t actually represent the students themselves. I felt that too many resources ... read more

I am currently a full time student at SSU and a mother of four young boys. The recent $500 increase is unacceptable. It has come to my attention that funds are being grossly mismanaged by the University. In place of accountability, the administration flau... read more

Tony White, Professor Emeritus, History, SSU Dan Markwyn, Professor Emeritus, History, SSU Robert Plantz, Professor Emeritus, Computer Science, SSU Philip Beard, Professor Emeritus, Modern Languages, SSU Dale Trowbridge, Professor Emeritus, Chemistry, SSU... read more

Professor of Mathematics (44 years at SSU) The University’s finances have been mismanaged for years. We have too many administrators, and they are paid too much. Too small a portion of our general fund money goes into academic instruction. Bad manag... read more