Pierce College may lose the Student Health Center due to a trailer bill within the California State Budget Bill, approval of this bill would allow students to vote on removing the health center’s fee.
Beth Benne, director of the Student Health Center, made this announcement during an Academic Senate meeting Tuesday.
“Students who don’t know [what the bill means] may say ‘Oh ya, I can save money on fees,’ but it goes beyond that,” Benne said.
The center provides services that are the cheapest in the country.
“It will limit the services we provide for students if the health fee changes,” Student Health Center Assistant Loralyn Frederick said. “It’s already difficult to run on the [funds from the] fee.”
Benne worries that students will vote to close the Health Center without fully understanding the services they will lose, she said.
A trailer bill is a bill that is attached to the state’s budget, and is not held to the same legislative processes as regular bills, allowing it to pass much quicker than usual.
Up until now, it has been mandatory for students at community colleges across California to pay the health fee due to a bill passed as part of the 1986/87 budget, all of which supports the operating costs of the Student Health Center, Benne said.
The 1986/87 bill did not affect Pierce College, which at the time did not have a health center, but in 1992 when the LACCD allowed students across all nine campuses to vote on the matter, the students chose to erect the fee to establish a health center.
The bill is believed to have originated in the governor’s office, but the sponsors, California Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield and California Senator Mark Leno, are most only on it because they are a part of the Budget Committee, according to Benne.
The bill is believed to be a measure to stop the cost of reimbursing college health centers for the portion of the budget the health fee does not cover.
If the bill is passed, and students do vote to remove the fee, the Board of Trustees may shut down the Health Center.
“This is a unique service,” Student Health Center Assistant Bonnie Zahavi said. “One service will wipe out the fee [accumulated over] four semesters.”
At this moment the center sees 5 to 10 percent of the student population of Pierce, but budget is based on the head count of the college as a whole.
“If we suddenly see 25 percent of the student population, we couldn’t handle them,” Benne said.
The Health Center currently provides no- to low-cost health care to all registered students, including first aid, over the counter medication and supplies, health screenings, prescriptions, immunizations, and psychological counseling.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had because I’m out to help students, and I’m not able to make a buck from it because it’s illegal,” Benne said.
Appointments to the Health Center can be made so that students are in there within 24 hours, whereas a doctor’s office might be booked for weeks.
Benne is willing to advocate for the Health Center.
“I would welcome that debate,” Benne said. “I would welcome telling students what their $11 goes towards.”
Jim Dawson, director of the Student Learning Center, is trying to help Benne by using his connections to get in contact with someone in charge of the bill, estmated to be sometime next week if not this.
The bill is scheduled to be voted on May 8 by the Assembly, and May 10 by the Senate.
“This bill is of critical importance to the general survivability of community college health services,” Benne said.
Trailer Bills: http://www.dof.ca.gov/budgeting/trailer_bill_language/documents/
Budget Bill: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_1451-1500/ab_1463_bill_20120110_introduced.pdf
Student Health Center: http://www.piercecollege.edu/offices/health_center/
Contributing: Samantha Williams