The Ontario government recently announced a 10% tuition discount, as I mentioned earlier. Along with that, they also announced that many fees will have to be made refundable for any student that doesn’t want to pay them. The theory is that it will give “students more choice over the fees they pay” and save students money on top of their 10% discount. It’s quite unusual for governments to start micro-managing university fees, many of which were set up to address local conditions and concerns with student support via a referendum. There is an exception in the announcement however, and fees that “fund major, campus-wide services and facilities or fees which contribute to the health and safety of students are deemed mandatory”. These mandatory fees include walksafe programs, health and counselling, athletics and recreation and academic support. So, I was interested in how this affects engineering students at Waterloo, and compiled a list of fees (to the best of my ability). It’s complicated but here they are with some comments and observations.
I don’t guarantee that this list is complete or accurate!
In the “Refundable?” column is the current status of those fees. A number of them are already refundable, if students don’t want to pay and they apply for the refund before the deadline.
Based on my limited understanding, most of our currently non-refundable fees are related to facilities and services that the government will allow to remain mandatory. The only ones which might change seems to be the Federation of Students fee (about $61 per term) and possibly the transit pass (about $94 per term), for a total of about $155 per term.
It would be a shame if the $94 transit fee was made refundable. This mandatory fee was approved by student referendum a few years ago, and provides unlimited transit use throughout the Region of Waterloo for an entire 4 month term. To buy monthly transit passes would cost $344 for the same 4 month period, so eliminating this mandatory fee would possibly cost student transit users quite a bit more money.
The Federation of Students fee provides operating funds for the campus-wide student society and everything they do. Alex Usher provides some more insightful comment on the potential negative effects and how they might adapt. The “Feds” provide a range of services and support for clubs, and also represent students on university committees and governance.
So that’s my review and understanding of the fee situation at Waterloo for engineering students. Basically the announcement of refundable fees does not appear to be a huge deal or large amount of savings for anyone, but we’ll see what develops.
After originally writing this, the government now seems to be saying that transit pass fees can remain mandatory. So that only leaves the $61 fee per term becoming refundable, from what I understand. Not a big change from the current situation.
6 thoughts on “Ontario’s Refundable Fee Plan”
I noticed that in the Jan 2019 OAUC Application Statistics that the University of Waterloo is one of the only 3 universities to see a decrease in applications. While I understand WLU has some negative press that may cause it to be less attractive, do you know why the popularity for UofW went down while it went up for almost all the other universities in the province?
The table is at:
Click to access 2019_ouac1_univsum_ssuas_app_fall_first_all_20180118_20190117.pdf
No, I’m not aware of anything in particular, and I don’t know whether it is across the board or related to any specific programs. Also, that data is just for Ontario high school applicants (OUAC Form 101), so it’s not a complete picture. The other data available on OUAC (https://www.ouac.on.ca/docs/stats/uapp/prelim_jan/2019_ouac1_pgmgrp_ssuas_app_fall_first_all_20180118_20190117.pdf) shows a bit of a drop in Engineering applications across Ontario, so maybe that’s a factor. Over the past decade we would see a slight decrease once in a while, for reasons that were never clear. But it would pick up again the following year.
Interestingly, the number of Form 101 applicants hasn’t been changing much over the years, as expected from demographic trends (https://www.ouac.on.ca/statistics/ugrad-app-stats/uapp-january/), but they keep putting in more and more applications. So the growth in “applications” that these statistics show is somewhat misleading, since there is still about the same number of actual people to fill seats with.
Very helpful information for ascertaining the impact of government cuts.
Looks like UPass etc will be not opt-outable, as reported by the Toronto Star:
Thanks, yes I see that now and have updated the post.