By Jessica Lovell
University of Guelph students have voted no to having an extra $2.50 per semester added to their mandatory non-tuition fees.
Regardless, this group of fees unrelated to the cost of education will likely continue to rise.
Unofficial results posted on the Central Student Association website show that the majority of students – 54 per cent, or 5,203 students – voted against an increase in the fee paid to the CSA that would have brought the CSA’s per-semester fee up to $18.
“It would mean an approximate increased revenue of $80,000 for the whole year,” CSA communications and corporate affairs commissioner Drew Garvie said of the proposed increase.
The extra cash would have been used to hire a full-time staff member to take some of the burden of supervising a 40-student staff off of the five-person executive, said Garvie.
The money would also go toward two new student jobs at the CSA and toward increasing the quality of services the student union provides, he said.
“We think the $2.50 is relatively modest,” he said.
That amount is actually quite a bit more than most student organization fees. Most are under a dollar, but the cost to students soon adds up.
On top of tuition, textbook costs and living expenses, U of G students pay around $400 per semester in other fees, and they are going up all the time.
“Most student pay their full student fees,” said Garvie, noting that although student can opt out of some fees, most don’t.
That may be because the effort to opt out of the small number of optional fees is not worth the $9.59 a student could potentially save.
Most of the fees are mandatory for a couple of reasons, said Brenda Whiteside, the university’s vice-president of student affairs.
The first is that the organizations prefer to know how much money they will have coming in, so they can better manage their budgets. The other reason is that the fees would go up if some students were allowed to opt out, she said.
As an example, she said, “If you could opt out, the bus pass would be double the price.”
Currently topping the list of fees is the Athletic Fee of $99.03, which “provides funds for building and fields access and the full range of athletic programs,” said Whiteside.
All compulsory fees have to adhere to a protocol, and all new fees have to go to referendum, as do fee increases over a certain amount. A similar process has to be followed to eliminate a fee. “If students are unhappy (with a fee), they can follow a process to bring a referendum question forward to create an opt-out,” said Whiteside.
To bring a fee to referendum, a supporting petition with 1,000 student signatures is normally required, although in the case of the recent CSA fee referendum, there was no petition.
“If it’s a CSA initiative, then it’s up to the board to approve” putting it to a referendum, said Garvie, explaining that the student union doesn’t always require the supporting signatures to hold a referendum during its elections.
What it does require is a quorum of just 20 per cent of the student population voting in order for a referendum issue to pass. From that 20 per cent, a 51 per cent majority is required.
Voter turnout was just over 26 per cent for the recent CSA election and referendum.
“The CSA’s position is that student fees should be voted on by students,” said Garvie. But he argued student fees are the least of students’ worries. “We’ve seen a massive increase in tuition fees over the years,” he said. “Tuition fees are the real cause of most students’ financial woes.” For a list of what fees students are paying see Student fees go towards assprtment of initiatives