Student fees support some amazing things

The real problem is rising tuition, say student leaders


Alexia Gezink, Kayley Marsh, Kirsten Goeckel and Dan Legault tend to Trent's rooftop garden

This is a response to Liam Ledgerwood’s argument against student union fees, which appeared in The Arthur at Trent University. What do you think about student fees? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter @maconcampus, or on Facebook.

We are sorry to hear that levy fees are troubling you and that you feel ripped off. Further, it is extremely troubling to hear of such an abuse of student monies at York—that is wrong. However, your piece misses some of the most amazing work these levies accomplish. Here is a quick, incomplete list of what they support:

—two food banks, feeding both hungry students and those less fortunate in the Peterborough community
—a free market to exchange goods
—a pan-campus and Peterborough-wide anti-rape campaign
—a transit system used by some 6,000 people daily
—a health benefits plan, which students can remove themselves from, used by 3,000 students
—employment for more than 100 students offering invaluable job experience (for example: Arthur staff writer)
—political and charitable goals including raising money for Haiti after their last earthquake, talking about mental health on campus, and helping those who cannot afford the full cost of childcare.

This work could not be done if we spent 25 per cent or 50 per cent of our time raising money, a very real likelihood. We would become fundraisers, not change makers. Levy fees, refundable or not, allow us to not worry about raising money, but instead to accomplish great things in our community.

Further, the books of these organizations are public. Any member can get access to these budgets (what is spent, how much we fund-raise and more) to find out how we are using these funds.

Levies, clubs and groups may not touch on all areas of student involvement and desire, and they may not appeal to everyone. However, their existence is not based on one student’s desire; they are based upon a majority vote.

The cost of a university education is immense and the debt load is grotesque. However, one thing that troubles us is the idea that levies are the problem. These fees, whether you like electoral democracy or hate it, are voted on by students. Any full-time student can start a petition to challenge them. The ultimate decision-makers are students. The fees only increase at the rate of inflation.

Yet, year-after-year our tuition fees rise by five per cent (twice the rate of inflation), some $300 a year ($800 a year for international students). No administrator will ask you whether you like it or not, or ask you to vote on it. You will simply pay it. It is the cost, right or wrong, to attend university.


Student fees support some amazing things

  1. I am long out of school but had to vote on a new rec center as I left Ryerson 25 years ago. Myself and most people in engineering voted against it with 30 – 32 hour class loads. We or future generations would not benefit due to time needed for study. It did pass in the end so all students for the next 25 years must foot the bill, personally I like to see higher user fees and less manditory support.
    I dislike that all students at UOIT where I now live must support a prepaid transit pass yet the school wants to charge for parking should they elect to drive. Even if you walk or bike to school you pay for transit.
    School SAC people are becoming too much like government and think there is no end to what the student population can support. Much like my taxes that go up double the rate of inflation something has to give before austerity measures become essential. I challenge any SAC committee to see what they can cut or do smarter with less money vs. what they can add to the cost. It’s called Lean / Kaizen / 6 Sigma used in the real business world and it would be good to start thinking this way as you enter the work force. School is a place of education not a social support program. Concentrate on education not socialism. Mind you, if the SAC comittee is practicing their entry level skills into politics they are doing a great job, NOT.

  2. To call student fees for such services essential to a large percentage of students to and to say all they need is an inefficiently bongo ‘business-like’ model is the epitome of “me meanness” and short thinking.

    Let’s face it, to label ‘government’ as the boogie man does no one any good–unless they want to do away with this precious social contract every individual has with our government (love it or hate it. And you start thinking like this, and each of the programs workers and citizens have worked for so many years to build up against selfish interests of those who want to squeeze every dime out of the multitudes to pay their divine shareholders’ offshore accounts in Switzerland is…..foolish at best.

    In the past 3 decades we’ve seen this “Me-ness” take place at the expense of the greater social good. Well, I’d like to see you living in a Hobbesian jungle where you have to police your own ‘hood, teach kids at home, vaccinate yourself, buy tall ladders with neighbours to be putting out fires yourselves, and have our seniors beg in the streets. Government bad, individuals’ “hard-earned” (thanks to our social contract!) money good.

    What a short-sighted way of thinking….no wonder 5% of Canadians own 65% of the wealth in this country and hoarding it–at our expense! Faulty thinking, my friend…..not business-like at all!!

    • The fact is, many of these “services” are not essential to a large percentage of students at all. The Vagina Monologues, Critical Knowledge Collective, Global Vets, and many others do not even come close to “essential”. Are health fees vital, I would say so, yes. is a $100/year athletic BUILDING fee on top of a $200/year athletic USE fee fair? No, certainly not.

      I pay $450/year for my parking pass on top of $180/year mandatory fee for a bus pass I do not use regularly. That’s $720 across 4 years (and the price WILL go up next year and the year after) for a service that would cost me under $200 (that’s 80 trips!) for my liberally estimated use in the same time frame. Oh ya, and if I lose the little blue sticker on my student card that signifies the bus pass I have to pay to get a new one.

      I am all for collectively supporting programs that support the greater good, but this is university, I am paying for education not politically motivated youth groups. (just search Drew Garvie uoguelph to see what I mean by politically motivated)

  3. I agree whole-heartedly with the comments of Kevin Clark and Jacob Nederend above. I am tired of having to pay for things that I never agreed to, for services that I never use. For example, each year I’m forced to pay for a bus pass, even though I commute to school from out of town, and there is NO bus service where I live. Every single year I file a petition to be exempt from the fee, and every single year it is declined, with absolutely no explanation offered.

    Also, the old excuse that “the students get to vote on these fees” is a non-starter me. Firstly, student turnouts for elections are remarkably low for most universities, so no vote represents the true will of the majority, as Liam Ledgerwood has pointed in his rebuttal. And secondly, so what if it did? Liam is right, students will be happy to support good causes voluntarily if they are interested in them. Why can’t I make up my own mind what organizations I would like to support, or what services I would like to use? Since when does the “majority” — assuming student votes even reflected one — get to determine what is right for the individual, all of the time?

    As Kevin said, I’m at university to get an education. No more, no less.