It is the dawn of a new school year and unfortunately students already have to be on the defensive. While this article was planned many moons ago and targeted specifically at the freshmen just beginning their post-secondary schooling career, the topic of hidden fees sadly affects all, university veterans and novices alike.
Students are attacked constantly by sneaky hidden fees. I returned to this reality a few days ago after an innocent-looking email. Titled simply "Co-op Orientation," the message discussed a mandatory meeting for new co-op students this coming week. That was not all, however, as the final paragraph casually mentioned a $50 non-refundable co-op activation fee was also due. Failure to pay results in withdrawl from the program.
That this payment probably pays for absolutely nothing is quite irritating, but the truly frustrating part is that it was mentioned for the first time only a few days before school starts.
Tuition is sky high, but all the hidden fees are equally unfair to students. The issue of tuition is not as contenstable, however, because the price is up front. Classes are not $400, along with an $80 desk and lecture hall fee. The price of a class is all built in as a single number, as it should be. If the co-op program needs the extra 50 bucks for it to run smoothly, just build it in to the cost of a co-op term. It is as simple as that.
Students beware, the mirrored halls of hidden fees stretch farther than one could ever imagine. A quick review of your total tuition charges uncovers a few more ways the university could be slowly taking cash from your wallet. A small "donation" is included each semester and is directed to providing bursaries to people with proven financial need. The university may want to check the definition of a donation as a voluntary gift-- emphasis on the word voluntary. Sure, you can choose to opt out of this, but do you actually expect to be charged for a donation?
Another charge slipped in under our noses is the health and dental plan. There is no denial that the program is great for students traveling abroad without insurance or students that are not covered by a parent's medical coverage. However, the number of students requiring this service is most certainly in the minority, and therefore the program would run more efficiently on an opt-in basis rather than the other way around. The paperwork would be extraordinarily less if the students who wanted coverage filled out a form requesting it, rather than a form being filled out by those who don't want coverage. This hurts those unsuspecting students who don't need the coverage, but are unaware they are paying for it.
The moral of the story is simple: spend a few extra minutes researching the true total cost of things, and when a hidden fee is slipped by the defences, fight it. Demand to know what exactly the fee is covering. It is the only way to stop these companies from gouging us, a few dollars at a time.