Student Fees Investigation: CSUB students await building expansions five years after passing fee increase

Haydee Barahona and Jaylene Collins

Graph by Haydee Barahona / The Runner

California State University, Bakersfield charges the fourth highest Student Center fee out of all 23 CSU campuses.    

CSUB students pay an $870 Student Center fee to the Student Union and Student Recreation Center. 

Although CSUB charges one of the highest Student Center fees in the CSU system, its total student union space is also the second smallest.  

The CSUB Student Union is 27,884 square feet, according to the list of CSU student union square footage provided by the CSU Chancellor’s Office. The building’s size places CSUB above just one other university: California State University, Channel Islands.  

The student union spaces among the 21 other CSU campuses range from 64,000 to 226,000 square feet. 

Graphic by Haydee Barahona / The Runner

While Cal Poly Humboldt’s student population is comparable to the 9,000 students at CSUB, Cal Poly Humboldt charges a $246 Student Center fee to its 8,000 students.  

Some campuses have made additions to their student union spaces or have a second student union at an off-campus center, wrote Hazel Kelly, public affairs manager for the CSU Chancellor’s Office, in an email. 

CSUB passed a student fee referendum in 2018 to expand the Student Union and build a new aquatic center for the SRC. As a result, CSUB students pay $180 a year to the SU’s and SRC’s respective projects.  

In 2019, students paid a total of $60 for this fee. $40 went to the SU expansion and $20 to the aquatic center. For four years, the SU expansion tiered up by $40 a year while the aquatic center remained at $20. 

In 2022, the four-year mark had been hit, thus the base of this fee will no longer go up for students and stay at $180. However, students can still be charged more for the fee.  

Currently, the SRC has about $1.8 million for the aquatic center project and the SU has about $10 million.  

CSUB is going to have the aquatic center built first, then the SU will be expanded, said EJ Callahan, assistant vice president for student affairs. 

CSUB’s current John S. Hillman Aquatic Center is mainly for athletics, being a National Collegiate Athletic Association pool. The aquatic center being built under the fee referendum won’t be used for athletics.  

“It’ll be a reservable space. It’s for students, student organizations could reserve it for programs,” Callahan said. “It won’t be a space for athletics or competition. It’ll be for recreation.” 

The current aquatic center is open to CSUB students, staff and faculty, but only for specific hours.  

Along with the pool, Callahan said they are hoping to build a deck in the new aquatic center so movie nights can be hosted for students.  

Callahan said the space being looked at for the aquatic center is the space across from parking lot K1 as well as the open area outside the SRC and by the University Police. Ideally, Callahan said they would like to build the aquatic center more central to campus.  

According to Callahan, no money has been spent from the money collected from the referendum for the SU expansion, but some of the aquatic center’s money has been used for initial feasibility studies.  

Mary O’Mahoney, the SRC director, said they don’t have a timeline for when the aquatic center may be finished. However, the next step would be to speak with an architecture firm to determine costs and then a timeline.  

“It has been suggested that this project will cost about $16 million. So you can see we are well short of being able to start the project immediately,” O’Mahoney said, “however, now that we are post-pandemic at least with regards to moving forward with campus plans the aquatic center will become a priority again.” 

O’Mahoney said she is currently working with Facilities Management to find an architecture firm for the project.  

“I’ve always loved swimming as cardio. So, to be able to do it inside, I’m guessing, it would be a lot better,” said Mata, a mathematics major. 

Mata said that he would like to see a pool accessible to everyone and intramural sports at the new aquatic center. 

After the aquatic center is finished, the SU expansion will begin.  

Callahan said that the process for the SU expansion would be similar to the SRC’s, which is to find an architecture firm first, then finalize a timeline.  

For the expansion, the space being looked at is the area by the Starbucks in the Student Union. 

Callahan said they are looking to build a ballroom and second floor when the expansion comes.  

“It’ll definitely be more substantial and give the students the space that they need cause right now they’re on top of each other and they’re not happy about it,” Callahan said.  

However, once both projects are built, the fee won’t cease.  

“There is probably a 30-year mortgage attached to both of those projects because that’s how it gets financed over that time period and then it has to support the staff that will be running that area,” Callahan said. “I don’t know if there’s necessarily an end date per se.” 

The referendum will continue to go towards fees concerning the aquatic center and SU expansion. Callahan said after everything has been built, the fee will go to paying for staff that will run the center and repairs or maintenance the centers may need in the future.