EDITORIAL: Summer student health fees unfair

State Hornet Staff

Logical thought assumes the fees students pay should buy them more of a college experience—but you know what they say about assuming.

The Student Health and Counseling Center costs more for summer session students, even though those students do not receive additional benefits.

The 2012 summer session cost $1,166 for a three unit class. We should not have to pay more for important services during summer. Especially if we have become accustomed to using them during fall and spring semesters.

Student health services offer summer services to eligible students year-round, even though CSU executive order 943 states it doesn’t need to if it lacks resources or available funding.

The order is the CSU chancellor’s policy on university health services outlining the ways CSU health centers must be operated.

Among other things, it allows students enrolled in fall and spring semesters who are not enrolled in summer session, but who have intent on enrolling in the following semester, to take advantage of the important benefits student health services offer during summer at no extra charge.

Unenrolled students use this policy to continue receiving health services. However, students who decide to enroll in summer session have to pay a mandatory $110 health services fee, yet receive the same exact services as non-enrolled students who get their health services for free.

“Students enrolled in two consecutive semesters…and not enrolled in summer are eligible for summer services as long as they are a matriculated (enrolled) student who has paid the mandatory student health fee,” said Executive Director of Student Health and Counseling Services Joy Stewart-James.

It is not fair to have some students pay more for services other students receive at no cost. All students who meet student health services’ eligibility requirements should not have to pay student health service fees over summer.

According to the Sac State Student Financial Services Center, the origin of mandatory summer session student health fees dates back to a 2010 proposal put forward by student health services and approved by the Student Fee Advisory Committee.

In the proposal, student health services specifically asked mandatory health services fees be charged during fall, spring and summer semesters.

Student health services, the College of Continuing Education and the Student Financial Services Center each verified the mandatory nature of summer student health services fees.

Even so, some Sac State students are never given the chance to pay for health services. According to student health services, online students as well as students working on their masters thesis are among those not offered health services at all.

Not only are some students not offered health services, the services offered during the summer may not be exactly the same as those offered during the regular semester.

“Counseling, pharmacy, x-ray, optometry, primary care and urgent care are all available during summer and winter breaks for students,” Stewart-James said.

When asked whether services offered during regular semesters are the same as those offered during summer session, student health services denied any changes to health service programs.

When senior photography major Becca Call found herself in the midst of a mental health emergency last semester, she was lucky enough to have teachers who referred her to student health services.

Call was assigned a therapist who set up regular appointments for her.

“It helped. I was able to unload,” Call said. “The people I met with were just wonderful—the access was the problem.”

Call said problems began when her therapist was not available to meet during summer and she was referred instead to a group therapy session—a move she said she was not ready to make.

“I thought about (going to group therapy), but I didn’t end up going. I didn’t feel quite ready…,” Call said. “I kept expecting him to refer me to someone (else) when he was gone but he didn’t. They only ever told me about the group sessions that I knew wouldn’t be helpful in a crisis.”

Because of multiple mental health emergencies, Call missed classes and fell behind over summer session. Due to her therapist’s absence, she said she couldn’t obtain the correct letters to withdraw from classes and ended up receiving a failing grade in a class she needed to graduate.

Call said it felt she was getting into a rhythm with her therapist and improving, but he was not available over summer to continue treatment.

Student health services was technically following policy when treating Call, but she should have been allowed more individual time with a therapist to build up her comfort level before moving to group sessions.

Stewart-James quoted Executive Order 943 when answering questions about availability of counseling services over summer.

“According to (Executive Order 943) the center may, ‘authorize continued care to a patient who has become ineligible but has not completed the prescribed treatment begun while an eligible student. Such care may continue until resolution of the current condition or until appropriate referral has been accomplished,’” she said.

Executive Order 943 also states, “Some campuses are incapable of providing basic services during certain summer periods. For example, when the only physician on a small campus is on vacation, services must be curtailed. If a campus is unable to provide summer services due to insufficient staff and/or resources, it shall implement a policy to refer students…to appropriate community medical facilities.”

Sac State is not a small campus, and according to student health services it can and does provide complete services. At 28,000 students it is the sixth largest out of 23 CSU campuses. CSU Northridge has the most students with almost 40,000. Cal Maritime has the least with just under 900 students.

The absence of mental health professionals affects other summer session students like Call. The mandatory $110 summer session health services fee is only $3 less than the regular semester fee. If counseling services offered during summer session aren’t equal to those provided during the regular semester, students shouldn’t have to pay nearly as much.

Students should not have to pay mandatory fees for a service their peers receive for free. All students attending Sac State should be given the option to pay for their right to use student health services. Anything else is wrong, and CSU and the student health services’ policy should be changed to accommodate all CSU students in a fair manner.

Student health services relies on student funding to operate and the important services it provides do cost money. Health services are important to the well being of Sac State’s students, but unfair policies are not beneficial to anyone.