Ontario college students will be subject to a new set of tuition regulations this September.
The problem for Humber students is that nobody knows what they are.
The new policies were passed by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in December 2013 and are set to be implemented for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Key components of this policy include the introduction of a tuition deposit, the removal of deferral fees and interest charges, and later deadlines for tuition fee payments.
The policy states Ontario universities and colleges “may require a tuition deposit from students before the start of their study term for the academic year.”
This deposit must be credited towards the total amount of tuition for the year and will not be an additional cost above what is already owed.
The policy also states “the maximum tuition deposit that a college can require is 10 per cent of the student’s total tuition fees for the academic year or $500, whichever is greater.”
Although the document outlines the upper limit in the spectrum of what a tuition deposit can be, it appears some institutions are interpreting this clause as an either-or decision between charging $500 or 10 per cent of a student’s total fees.
Veronica Barahona, communications manager for the College Student Alliance (CSA), said she is concerned about this.
“The development of mandatory guidelines regarding tuition payment deadlines and interest charges and late fees are being instituted,” she said. “Each institution, from what I’m seeing and the ones that have posted anything, has chosen the $500 fee instead of the tuition. And there are no guidelines that limit that.”
Closer to home, student leaders at Humber also have concerns about the implementation of this policy.
Upon his initial discovery of the new policy, Humber Students’ Federation Vice President Student Affairs for North Odin von Doom lauded the change in tuition payment deadlines.
“A big thing was the tuition deadline,” he said. “We currently operate around the tuition deadline, from my experience, of somewhere in and around June 25. That was moved to no earlier than the first of August.”
Ahmed Tahir, von Doom’s fellow Vice President at North campus and current HSF president-elect, lamented the inaccessibility of the document.
“In the summer, we were looking into an a la carte system, trying to figure out if it made sense for students to pay per course rather than a slate of courses,” said Tahir. “And while doing that, we saw that some policies are going to be changed for this coming academic year and we saw them in newspaper articles, but once we were trying to find the actual (document), we had difficulty doing it.”
“We were not able to find it and I think what I realised was that I’d like that to be more publicly available and not have to go through a person to call and get that documentation,” he said.
Although these rules are a binding directive for all publicly-supported colleges, they also serve as overarching guidelines. Individual institutions are left to decide some administrative details concerning students’ tuition fees.
Moving forward, the CSA is hoping the ministry will respond to its concerns about how the policy is being rolled out.
“After our February conference, we had sent correspondence to Assistant Deputy Minister David Carter-Whitney about student concerns surrounding the tuition deposit,” said Barahona. “To date, we’ve received a reply saying that our questions would be answered, but that’s it.”
Barahona said that she understands government has their own timelines, so the CSA has taken it upon themselves to inform students about the changes.
“Our biggest thing is we’re trying to make sure that our members and the students that they represent are aware of this and given a heads-up,” she said. “Unfortunately, I don’t see anything happening before this June, so we’re trying to create awareness of it.”