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.