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U of C executives Jake Gebert, Dru Marshall and Elizabeth Cannon give their full attention to SU executives presenting their response to the tuition consulation process.
Aly Gulamhusein/the Gauntlet

Student Services fee remains at $300

Students don't pay $150 next year, SU says fight is not over

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On Tuesday Feb. 28, the Board of Governors voted to keep the student services fee at $300 for the 2012-2013 school year, instead of instituting the full $450 fee as planned. The Students' Union continues to advocate to the government and university to have the fees regulated and for the university to communicate to the SU where the fees are going.

In April 2010, BOG approved a new student services fee of $450. The board intended to phase in the fee over three years. The student services fee falls under the broad category of non-instructional fees, which go toward services that aren't covered by tuition.

"It was actually student approval and regulation that we were looking for around non-instructional fees," said SU vice-president academic Ola Mohajer.

"We're not going to back down on fighting for regulation of non-instructional fees just because we've received this opportunity," said Mohajer regarding the vote in favour to keep the student services fee at $300 for the upcoming year.

"The SU is always supportive when students are being saved money," said Mohajer.

First-year education student Raven Scott works part-time to afford her education.

"It's such a great chunk of money but no one really tells you what it's for or how it's justified," she said when discussing tuition and fees. "If they could tell you exactly what you're paying for, you might be more understanding."

She knew about the breakdown of fees on the Student Centre, but commented, "I wish they gave you a more detailed list."

Provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall thinks the full $450 fee will be in place for the 2013-2014 school year, yet she said she heard the students loud and clear, which led to the decision to implement the fee over four years.

"I thought it was the right thing to do, given the conversation that we had with the students," said Marshall.

The SU has been asking the registrar's office since May 2011 for the full breakdown of what services the fee provides.

"The only thing we do know is now counselling is free and you get transcripts free instead of paying the $20 fee. But we don't know the full breakdown," said Mohajer. "I think it's the students' right to know what they are paying for."

Marshall responded to questions about the value of the fee for students.

"That fee was not necessarily for new things. That fee was to offset the cost of things that were currently in the budget," said Marshall. "We have increased counselling, we have increased programs on the ground, facilities that have changed considerably, so there's this series of things that have happened there. Have we gone far enough? No. We need to do more."

It has not been communicated when the university plans to provide a breakdown of the student services fee to the SU.

"We have said to the SU and to the Graduate Students' Association that we will ensure that we're going to make sure that we report back regularly to them," said Marshall.

This will take the form of annual reports.

There was also a motion to establish a tuition and mandatory non-instructional fee committee to discuss increases in tuition and mandatory fees with the SU and GSA, but the motion failed.

"The SU didn't vote in favour of the tuition and mandatory non-instructional fee advisory committee terms of reference," said Mohajer. "We feel that it doesn't really change the way student consultation is done and it doesn't really change the fact that we still don't have a mode of student approval for mandatory non-instructional fees."

The SU hasn't narrowed down which student approval mechanism would work best.

"Is it, for example, a referendum, is it a student board, is it having another committee in place where there are students and administration?" said Mohajer. "There are so many different models in terms of how that could play out."

By not collecting the full $450 fee this year, the University of Calgary is not collecting $3.6 million in revenue. To make up for this the U of C is taking $3.6 million out of the contingency fund to balance the budget.

"Raising the fee this year to the level that had been proposed would put us in the top five in fees. I don't think that's where we want to be," said Marshall.

Increasing the student services fee to $450 would make the U of C's fees the fourth most expensive when compared to the other 15 universities the U of C is ranked against, called the U15.

Next year, undergraduates will pay $787 in overall mandatory non-instructional fees, not counting the U-Pass. The average fees for the U15 is $806.

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