Ontario’s undergraduate students have been asked to shoulder the burden of rapidly rising tuition and associated costs of attending university. Tuition regulation, though still allowing tuition to increase beyond inflation, has meant that universities are looking for alternative revenue sources to meet their financial obligations. These alternative revenue sources have emerged through ancillary fees, which can appear in the following forms: student activity fees, athletic fees, housing fees, health insurance fees, transportation/parking fees, student centre fees, and other miscellaneous fees such as capital projects, access copyright, sustainability, student services, among others.
Ancillary fees in Ontario have been rapidly increasing; in fact, fees have increased by over 20% since 2010, and they comprise, on average, about 16% of the total fees paid by students in all university Arts & Science programs. As universities scramble to subsidize their operations, students are unfairly being tasked with paying increasingly large amounts – and increasingly varied types – of ancillary fees in Ontario. These increases have far surpassed the province’s inflation rate of roughly 9% since 2010. This is placing increased financial burdens on Ontario’s undergraduate students, and raising serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and fair cost sharing principles that students feel should permeate throughout the sector.
At our General Assembly this month, delegates collaborated to develop a comprehensive analysis of the current issues relating to ancillary fee policies, as well as to articulate their recommendations for how the province can mitigate their concerns. The most significant concern stems from the fact that the province does not regulate or maintain strict guidelines for ancillary fees, leaving the protocols to be agreed upon within each institution in collaboration with their respective student associations. Unfortunately, though, this hands-off approach has led to various interpretations and misuses of ancillary fees, which have significantly burdened Ontario’s undergraduates. As such, the most prominent demand students are putting to the provincial government is to establish a standalone ancillary fee protocol aimed at achieving the following goals: improving the overall transparency and accountability of ancillary fees levied upon undergraduate students, mandating student control and student governance autonomy in regards to changes in ancillary fees, and effectively implementing a fair cost sharing structure at a provincial level.
OUSA believes that the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development should address the concerns highlighted in this paper, and we hope that our policy recommendations are seriously considered and that we can work together to improve the accessibility, affordability, accountability, and quality of the university sector for Ontario students.
You can read the policy brief and full policy paper here.