During next week’s election, students logging onto GOLD will decide just how much they value tutoring programs.
Between April 20 and April 22, undergraduate students will decide whether or not they are willing to pay a $6 per-quarter lock-in fee to Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS), in order to keep the program running in its current form. This is the first time in two decades that CLAS has requested a lock-in fee from students. For the initiative to pass, it must receive approval from two-thirds of undergraduates.
CLAS Director Carol Hiles said this is the first time CLAS has been in such desperate need for funding from students. While recent years’ budget cuts have forced the program to minimize spending in certain areas, she said this year’s budget shortages pose a more serious problem.
“We’ve been trying to save money in the last few years in anticipation of this,” she said. “We saw this coming, but we can’t keep cutting money back, it’s too much. If we can just get this funding, it will ride us through and we’ll be fine.”
If passed, the lock-in fee will provide CLAS with approximately $351,000 a year – money Hiles said will go directly to the tutoring programs, and not toward administrative payroll.
This year, CLAS tutoring programs have served 6,677 students including undergraduates, English as a Second Language program students, students from the Disabled Students Program, intercollegiate athletes, and graduate students struggling in their classes. The program employs approximately 125 tutors per quarter, teaching subjects ranging from math and science to paper writing and learning skills. Currently, tutoring services are free to all students.
Nina Tringali, Intake Counselor and Co-President of the CLAS Student Advisory Board, said the services may no longer be free if the fee initiative does not pass. She said failure of the initiative could result in serious cutbacks to the services CLAS offers.
“We’ll have to cut back the programs we offer, such as the drop-in homework labs for math and sciences, or the foreign language tutoring,” Tringali said. “It would just be the core, freshman classes we could offer students for free.”
Tringali said students needing help in other subjects would be forced to pay for tutoring in their respective classes.
“If we don’t get this money, there won’t be enough tutors and classes for the people who need CLAS,” CLAS writing tutor Gia Rupp said. “We won’t have the money to offer free services. It would be around $25 an hour for those forced to use private tutoring, and who can afford to pay that? And the people who can afford it would have the advantage in classes. It wouldn’t be fair.”
Several students who use CLAS said they agree that the program should be free, and are willing to pay the $6 lock-in to keep costs down.
“I’ve taken CLAS since freshman year, and there are still upper division classes I’m going to need help in,” sophomore biology major Tiffany Buzzatto said. “We’ve talked to people about private tutoring; it’s 50 bucks an hour. So I would rather pay a little bit than have to pay that.”
Sophomore microbiology major Leigh Belford said she agreed that the $6 fee would be worth it.
“Private tutoring, at $50 per session per week – that’s a lot of money,” she said. “I wouldn’t do it. Nobody has that kind of money. But I really need these classes.”
A number of students said they are concerned that without CLAS their grades will be negatively impacted.
“It sucks that it has to come to this, with students having to pay a lock-in fee, but if it is to save the program I’m all for it,” said James Kreuger, sophomore biology major and CLAS attendee. “Without CLAS there’s no way I would pass these classes, especially ones like O-Chem.”
Undeclared freshman Jake Lehman said he was also willing to pay the fee even though he is not a heavy user of CLAS, and that the university should reevaluate its budget.
“It’s outrageous that the budget is being cut from tutoring. If the program will close if I don’t pay $6, then I will vote yes,” he said. “But I think [the university] really needs to reappropriate the funding so that more of it goes towards tutoring because it’s so important at a school like this.”
Tringali said she hopes that students realize the worth and importance of the program, and vote to support CLAS.
“I deal with a lot of people who come into the office in tears and upset about having just failed a midterm or thinking they’re going to fail their class,” she said. “To set up students with tutors, and then have them come back and say they wouldn’t have passed otherwise is a great thing. This program really is a social good for the school. We’re one of the only UCs that offers free tutoring; it would be sad to see that end.”