Student questions summer fees

Campus News

UVic students may not be getting their fees’ worth, especially in summer, says third-year philosophy student Yan Rakhmilov.

A student who takes three or more courses within a term, whether the courses are one-month-long summer courses or spread over the full term, pays the full UVic Students’ Society  (UVSS) fee (currently listed on the UVSS website as $71.91, but in the current UVic Calendar as $69.41) and full athletics fee ($79) for that term. A student who takes only one or two courses within a term pays half the Students’ Society fee (listed on the UVSS website as 35.93, but students report UVic collecting $34.71 as listed in the current UVic Calendar) and half of the athletics fee ($39.50), but still the full four-month bus pass (U-Pass) fee of $81.

Rakhmilov feels basing student fees on the number of courses, rather than the duration of courses, means students taking summer courses that are condensed over a shorter term, such as those spanning only a month or two, are paying fees disproportionate to the services they require.

“We have to start a dialogue, so people are aware,” says Rakhmilov. “Then they’ll be like, ‘Okay. Maybe are we overcharging?’ Well, obviously for some things they probably are. Where’s the money going?”

Complications may arise in fee payment for summer courses with non-standard course dates. Students are allowed to register for courses up until 15 per cent of the duration of the course has passed. For one-month August courses (Term 7), this is as late as Aug. 2. Students who register at this time pay full ancillary fees including U-Pass, athletics and student society membership, even though they will only have one month to access the associated services. However, UVic Executive Director of Financial Services Murray Griffith points out that these students have the option of registering for their Term 7 course at the beginning of summer, and would then have access to services for May, June and July, even though their course doesn’t begin until August.

Rakhmilov feels that since, for example, some students do not even come to the city until they need to  for their course, students should have the option of paying proportional fees for their service period. This is a similar argument to that made by students who don’t wish to use the U-Pass and want to opt out of its $81 fee; but this isn’t allowed either, except for extenuating circumstances such as disability or other factors preventing transit use.

B.C. Transit Spokesperson Meribeth Burton provided an explanation by email: “The U-Pass is typically priced with one semester of transit use equivalent to an adult monthly pass, or roughly four months for the price of one. This large discount is made possible by the mandatory nature of the agreement.”

UVSS Director of Finance Matt Hammer also responded via email, saying, “Like taxes or a group insurance plan, we all pay in even when we don’t need it, so that it will be there for us when we need it and there for others when they need it. To quote a classic, ‘the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.’”

Still, Rakhmilov says, when you take fees for a certain purpose (service for the student), and they don’t go for that purpose, that’s undemocratic.

There are also the matters of fee reduction for dropped courses and service fees for overdue accounts.

Students who drop courses before 15 per cent of the course duration has passed (100 per cent fee reduction period), are refunded all fees, including the full amount of the course’s tuition and, if they’re not taking other courses, ancillary fees like UVSS membership, U-Pass and athletics. If a student drops all courses after the 100 per cent reduction period, but before 38 per cent of the course duration has passed (50 per cent fee reduction period), the student gets half their tuition refunded, but no ancillary fees.

This may be so that the university can disburse funds to various departments that need to do their budgeting without accounting for an unknown number of reimbursements. To this, Rakhmilov says, “Go back the last ten years, what’s the number of students that dropped?” He thinks the university is capable of accounting for fees refunds in this way, instead of refusing refunds after a certain deadline.

Finally, interest on overdue fees is calculated at a rate of 1.5 per cent per month, starting the month in which a student registers—not the month in which the course begins. This means that if a student registers for an August course in May (perhaps hoping to take advantage of four months’ worth of services they’re paying for regardless), but then doesn’t pay fees until August, the student may owe several months of interest by the time their course starts. A student who registers for the same course, but on Aug. 2, doesn’t owe interest-based service fees until the following month.

Students can get information on UVic fees through the FAQ section of Accounting Services’ website, through a link at the bottom of their My Page or, for more specific or detailed answers, by calling or walking into the Welcome Centre in the University Centre building.