Students looking for a weekend activity that doesn’t drain their wallets have always had the option of visiting the California Science Center, which sits just across Exposition Boulevard from USC. But now, a visit that was once free may soon cost a sizable fee.
The science center, which aims to educate visitors about math and science, has always been free, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed adding an admission fee to help bring in more money.
The governor’s plan includes a $12 million budget cut for the museum. The entrance fees would help close this gap.
The new price of admission will most likely be modeled after the fee for the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco that is similar to the California Science Center. The San Francisco museum currently costs $15 for adults and is free for children under the age of 3.
State Sen. Curren Price said imposing an admission fee would be an ill-advised move.
“The new proposal from the governor is calling for a budget reduction of $12 million and asking the science center to make up that shortfall by generating more revenue from admissions,” said Price. “According to the 2005 study, charging for admission would bring the science center less than $1 million a year in net income, far short of the $12 million proposed to be taken out of the science center’s budget.”
Price said he does not think the fee will pass, but he noted that, if it does, it could be disastrous.
“The more you charge, the more attendance drops, negatively impacting our ability to generate revenue and serve economically disadvantaged visitors,” he said.
A similar plan was put forth to the legislature in 2005, and it was rejected. But with the state’s budget at an all-time low, this proposal could help boost the state coffers.
Students said a fee — particularly, a $15 fee — would make them hesitate before visiting the science center.
“One great thing about Los Angeles is that a lot of the museums and other kinds of exhibits are free,” said Neil Sakhrani, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “Although I haven’t been to the science center, the Getty is one of my favorite spots, and I don’t want places like the Getty and the California Science Center to start charging money. It will make people less likely to go to enjoy exhibits and learn.”
Michael Jacobs, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said he has been to the center a few times, but, if there is an admission fee, he said he is unsure he would return.
“Although I can see how charging admission would be good for the economy, I don’t think I would pay that much to go back to the science center,” said Jacobs. “$15 is more than it costs to see a movie.”
Some students are not as discouraged about the price change as others.
Mina Gerges, a sophomore majoring in engineering, said he would not stop visiting entirely if a new fee is imposed.
“As an engineering major, I love going to the California Science Center,” said Gerges. “If people in the community really love the science center, then they will support it no matter what.”
Whatever happens, Price said he hopes the science center will not be a victim of the state’s decision.
“The focus of the science center is in inspiring science learning for all, including a large number of youth in the greater Los Angeles area,” said Price. “My hope is that the science center will inspire the learning and imagination of all those who attend, whether it be young children, college students or senior citizens.”