Students clash with college president over class-action lawsuit

Suit asks for $200-million from Ontario colleges to pay back illegal fees

Amanda Hassum and Dan Roffery, who are students at Conestoga College and George Brown College respectively, are suing Ontario colleges for $200-million, alleging that ancillary fees they paid were illegal. They are seeking damages for all students who have paid the fees since 2004. In Ontario, it is illegal for post-secondary institutions to enforce compulsory tuition-related ancillary fees. Compulsory non-tuition fees can only be charged if approved by a student referendum.

The Canadian Federation of Students(CFS), which is assisting the students in the lawsuit, claims that the average full-time college student paid $671 in ancillary fees during the 2005-2006 academic year. Their research indicates that between 1995 and 2004, revenue generated from these fees increased by 240 per cent.

"I noticed in my second year I was paying more, but I knew there was a tuition freeze on so I was really curious," Amanda Hassum told the Guelph Mercury. "I was just too scared to question my own college, figuring that they are not going to ask us to pay for things that we don’t have to pay for our education."

The students also accused the government of turning a blind eye to the colleges that were charging illegal fees. Minister Bentley responded in the past that his Ministry deals with every complaint received. After hearing no response in regard to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs took that advice and filed a formal complaint with the Ministry last week.

Despite the accusation, the students do not plan to add the Ontario government to the suit, according to CFS Ontario chairperson Jen Hassum. However, Murphy said in an interview that the Ministry was put on notice that the students were intending to add the Ministry to the suit in the beginning of August.

In response to Tibbits’ comment in the Cambridge Times, Jen Hassum could only say, "That was very brazen of him." The Times itself did not have a nice word for the Conestoga president either. "Tibbits is acting like the biggest dog in the yard," the paper wrote in an editorial. "You play by his rules or you don’t play at all."