Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees
What do students want?
Students at the University of Alberta and other universities in Alberta have been calling for a government regulation on fees charged outside of tuition since 2009. Students at the University of Alberta are calling on the provincial government to restrict fees so that they pay for actual services provided to students and that students want these services by allowing students the opportunity to approve the fees charged to them through either a vote of Students Council or a referendum of the student body.
What are Other Fees?
Fees charged to students can be broken down in a number of ways. One easy way to break them down is fees for instruction (tuition), other fees for services provided to students (administered by the University) and fees to student organizations (approved by students & managed by the Students’ Union).
The second category of fees in Alberta is completely unregulated and often referred to as Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees. The lack of regulation in Alberta has led to Alberta having the highest costing Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees in the Country. The lack of regulation has also led to students being charged for fees that are not directly related to services provided to them when the University is in a difficult financial situation.
How Much do Students Pay?
Without accounting for the fees managed by the Students’ Union, which are approved by students through referendum, full time students pay over $750 a year in additional fees at the University of Alberta. Many of these fees pay for specific items, which have not changed since they were initially approved. The outlier is the Common Students Space Sustainability and Services Fee, which was implemented as a temporary fee to address budgetary shortfalls in 2010.
(For more information on fees charged to students each term please see http://www.registrarsoffice.ualberta.ca/Costs-Tuition-Fees/Noninstructional-Fees.aspx)
What is the CoSSS Fee?
The Common Student Space, Sustainability and Services fee was implemented by the University in 2010 to addressed budgetary shortfalls and was promised to be temporary. Further, for the Students’ Union the CoSSS fee highlights why fees require regulation. The most serious concerns with the Common Students Space, Sustainability and Services Fee are below.
1) It is a Basket of Potential Services
While the other fees charged to students can be tracked to specific budgets, the CoSSS fee potentially pays for any number of items from a basket of goods. This means that students don’t actually know what they are paying for with the fee.
2) The Basket of Potential Service Changes
From between September 2012 in the University Calendar to November 2012 when the University needed to submit their Mandatory Non-Instructional Fee Report to students, the definition and items within the CoSSS fee basket of goods actually changed. Quite literally what students are paying for changed while they were paying for it. In addition to this, within the new basket of goods, students are not actually paying for Student Space or Sustainability initiatives on campus. Instead, security initiatives, emergency management and computing services have taken the place of common space and sustainability.
3) Some items are not actually services to students
Many of the items potentially funded through the CoSSS fee do not serve undergraduate students. One of the simplest examples of a potential item charged to students that does not serve them is the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. According to the report produced by the University of Alberta, the CoSSS fee could pay for the entire net operating budget of over $2 million for the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research even though it provides no services to undergraduate students.
4) Funding instructional services through the CoSSS fee
Items and tasks necessary for instruction should be funded through tuition fees and the Campus Alberta Grant. The University should not charge additional fees for these items. However, the basket of goods potentially supported by the CoSSS fee has many of these items. Items that are necessary for instruction listed in the CoSSS fee basket include all services operated by the Registrars office related to timetabling, booking of exams and the reporting of grades; laboratory safety and the removal of hazardous materials and the creation and maintenance of Bear Tracks.
5) The fee has never been supported by students
The CoSSS fee never went to students for approval. While students have a strong track recorded of supporting fees proposals that they see actual value in, the CoSSS fee reflects what happens when student approval and feedback is removed from the process. The fee does not reflect services provided to students but instead is tuition by another name – a fee that is put into the general operating budget of the institutions justified by a shifting and expanding basket of goods. In such, the CoSSS fee is an ideal reflection of the need for regulation to protect students from unfair fees.
To learn more about student concerns with this fee, please read the SU's MNIF report here.
Students' Union Executive and Administrative Offices
Students' Union Building
University of Alberta
8900 - 114 Street NW