January 17, 2019
TORONTO, ON -- Today, the provincial government announced several changes to Ontario’s tuition framework for universities and Ontario’s student financial aid system. OUSA’s full response to the changes to the Tuition Framework and OSAP can be found here. In this announcement, the government also included a stipulation that would allow students to opt-out of certain non-tuition fees which are deemed “non-essential”.
OUSA understands the government’s desire to save students money by providing them with an option to opt-out of non-tuition ancillary fees. However, OUSA strongly emphasizes that this provision will not only reduce the levels of essential student services and make support services more expensive for individual students, but will also shift the need for such services onto the provincial government.
OUSA believes that the government should introduce legislation that recognizes the autonomy of student unions at post-secondary institutions - allowing student unions to levy their fees in a manner decided by their membership. Students should have the autonomy to decide non-tuition-related ancillary fees that are deemed non-essential through student union referendums.
“The primary function of student unions is to ensure institutions are accountable to students and so unions can advocate on behalf of students,” said OUSA Steering Committee member, Matthew Gerrits, and student at the University of Waterloo. “Student unions have become more than a just a vehicle for advocacy - they provide students with essential services and supports, improve the affordability of post-secondary education and provide experiential learning opportunities that help students develop skills to enter the workforce.”
OUSA is very concerned about how this provision may impact student associations across Ontario. Student representation, the autonomy of student governments, student media outlets, and services like health and dental plans, clubs systems, student-led programming, transit passes, and peer-support services, could be at risk. Most student unions’ services, funded through student fees, reduce University and student reliance on government funding. Student unions fill in gaps in programming and services where Universities cannot or will not.
“The eight student unions represented by OUSA provide prescription drug coverage to over 94,000 of our students which means the government does not need to take care of them under OHIP+” said, OUSA President, Danny Chang, and student at Western University. “We need to make sure that the impact of this government announcement does not harm the services we provide to our students, services that often times take the burden off of the government.”
Additionally, based on the experiences borne out by the Australian government through their decision to ban compulsory non-academic fees in 2005, which was reversed in 2011, OUSA is concerned that this provision will lead to a number of unintended consequences that will negatively impact the government, students, student unions, and institutions. Reports cite that the legislation took an estimated $170 million a year out of student services budgets nationally, resulting in the closure of many services and thousands of jobs lost. During the ban on compulsory non-academic fees, students faced a decrease in student service levels and an increase in individual costs. Australian student unions saw a decrease in student advocacy and student representation.
OUSA looks forward to sharing these concerns with the government and understanding how the details of the ancillary fee provision will impact our members. To view OUSA’s full 2016 Ancillary Fees policy paper, click here.
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OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations across Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario.
Operations & Communications Director
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance