TORONTO, October 1 /CNW/ – The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) welcomed the announcement by the University of Windsor in late September that refunds will be issued to students who purchased mandatory access codes to online teaching resources that include testing. The University of Windsor recognized that requiring students to purchase access to these online materials violated Ontario’s ancillary fee protocol, which prohibits charging students fees for the costs of evaluation.
In July 2011, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) responded to questions surrounding ancillary fees associated with online learning by issuing a memorandum to all Ontario universities. The memorandum clarified how ancillary fee regulations would apply to new online applications; specifically, that students should not incur any additional costs relating to their evaluation. The MTCU clearly defined the costs of evaluation to be born by the university as a tuition-related fee.
The memorandum came in response to a letter from then-OUSA President Meaghan Coker, who detailed concerns around the lack of understanding of ancillary fee regulations and asked that the honourable John Milloy (former Minister, TCU) address the concerns and play a role in ensuring compliance with the protocols.
Current OUSA President Alysha Li voiced that she was pleased that the government responded to OUSA’s concerns, but fears that the clarification provided by the memorandum is still not widely understood “possibly because of a misunderstanding around the regulations, or simply a lack of institution-wide knowledge of the memo,” she stated.
Even after the memorandum was released, some students at the University of Windsor continued to be charged for aspects of evaluation such as online access codes and testing, which is in direct violation of the ancillary fee protocol.
Mohammad Akbar, Vice-President University Affairs of the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance (UWSA) cited students as central to the University of Windsor’s decision to refund the fees. “It was a student who flagged the issue initially, and it stimulated a bit of a groundswell amongst the student population. Because students responded so strongly – reporting incidents to us and to their faculty – we were able to have a productive dialogue with the university.” Akbar commented, “It was because of students that this was possible.”
“OUSA has continued to recommend to our student associations that they make their students aware that they should not be paying for mandatory online testing,” stated Rylan Kinnon, Executive Director of the OUSA. “We were happy that the University of Windsor took such concrete steps to address the violations and has committed to finding a long term solution to this issue. We hope that other institutions will follow the University of Windsor’s lead in instances where students have been required to pay for testing.”
OUSA will continue to pay close attention to cases where the ancillary fee protocol is violated and urges Ontario students to report any instance of violation to OUSA or their respective student associations.
OUSA represents the interests of over 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full- and part-time university students at nine member associations across Ontario.