Categorized | Finance

Universities loading extra fees on top of tuition: ‘They are unfair’

Posted on 17 September 2014 by admin

With university costs projected to increase over the next four years, students are being hit with newly created or rising fees on top of tuition, including those to use facilities and even to graduate, according to a new report.

These fees — such as athletic fees and student association fees — amounted to $817 on average last year, with Alberta having the highest ($1,025) and Newfoundland the lowest ($222), says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“They are unfair,” says Anna Goldfinch, Ontario representative for the Canadian Federation of Students. “Institutions are using ancillary fees as a way to make up revenue and they’re passing the buck along to students to have to pay for these shortfalls in [funding]. Students are hit with these extra costs, things like graduation fees, deferral fees, flat fees.”

In Ontario, for example, if you want to graduate, you may have to pay a fee to make sure your degree is conferred. If you want to pay your tuition fee per term versus paying the full-year in one lump sum, you’ll be charged a deferral fee. If you only take three courses in a term, you might still have to pay for a full-course load or five courses through a flat fee. The Canadian Federal of Students in Ontario has successfully lobbied to have some of these ancillary fees phased out, Ms. Goldfinch says.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that annual fees at Canadian universities are projected to rise 13% on average to $7,755 in 2017 to 2018, having at least tripled since 1990 to 1991. This rise is partly fueled by these compulsory fees levied on top of tuition which are not often subject to restrictions.

 “Universities are having to get a little bit more creative about how they’re increasing their revenues and taking them out of students,” says Erika Shaker, director of the think-tank’s education project. The report says that provincial funding for universities is inadequate.

In 2010, the University of Calgary introduced a $450 student services fee, replacing fees for student transcripts, fees for counseling through University Health Services and registration and thesis fees for graduate students.

“These ancillary fees vary across the country,” says Jessica McCormick, national chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students. “There are building access fees — I guess it’s a charge to access the building, if you take it literally — clicker fees, these are for instruments you’d use.”

Saint Mary’s University charges a student taking 10 half-credit courses: a campus renewal fee of $340, a recreation facilities fee of $50 and a copyright fee of $30. Dalhousie University levies an $81.90 facilities renewal fee and a $72.93 student union fee to full-time students. The University of Toronto charges a $110 application fee to music students applying to graduate studies and a $75 audition fee for performing students.

The arts have never been intended for anyone serious about an occupation, save God and law, and certainly not meant for large swathes of the population

It makes it very difficult for students to predict how much they’ll have to pay in the coming year, Ms. McCormick says.

“Our parents used to be able to work over the summer and cover the costs of school the following year,” she says. “Now we can work over the summer and not even come close to saving up enough and continue to work throughout the year, not only to cover the cost of post-secondary education but the cost of living.”

Students are also expected to pay “vastly different” tuition based on where they live and where they want to study, which undermines the universality of post-secondary education, Ms. Shaker says.

Some provinces — such as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan and Ontario — have a two-tier fee structure, providing more financial breaks to in-province students than those from outside the province, she said.

“Some of our mindsets are changing towards whose responsibility is it to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible and affordable to families and who benefits from it,” Ms. Shaker says. “Certainly there is individual benefit but there is a huge society benefit as well. When we start moving away from public financing and more towards individualized financing, it obscures that.”

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