January 23, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 63  

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Where are fees going?

Waiting in a long line to pay a fee for a simple piece of paper is stupid.

But forking over extra cash is exactly what is happening with increasing frequency across the university, and is mirrored at campuses across the province.

Administrators point to budget constraints as the reason for relying on ancillary and user fees to cover their costs, and their difficult fiscal situation — and that of students — will only get worse if the provincial government continues to under-fund universities.

The university’s position that user fees are essential to providing important services to students is on shaky ground. Fees can be eliminated if the university puts forth an honest and concerted effort to get the government to fund ancillary costs. Instead, they believe it much easier to put in place a fee to cover what they should be doing anyway.

The university is able to levy these fees on students because they can. They are probably making huge sums of money from user fees, though the actual amount remains hidden.

Western’s policy of comparing their fees to other universities defies logic and can only serve to take more money away from students. If another university charges more for an identical service, what is stopping Western from matching the higher fee in order to harmonize their rates? This practice will only drive up fees in a vicious cycle, tantamount to university collusion.

This must be stopped.

The feedback process for determining what level of service students demand is also woefully inadequate. Decision-makers say they are in regular contact with the University Students’ Council, front-line employees and anyone else they deem helpful, though what they actually take into consideration is dubious.

It remains a mystery what actually happens with the fees we pay. Does the university allocate fee revenues wherever they want or is it exclusively used to cover the cost of providing the service. We hope it is on a purely cost-recovery basis with not a single extra cent being shifted elsewhere.

The fact that there is no formal review process for individual fees is insulting. Saying that everything is “considered” during the budget process is akin to the university plugging its ears and turning its head. With the Board of Governors rubber stamping all these seemingly innocent fees, students should be concerned that the situation will not be getting better. Expect next year to usher in a new fee on, say, meeting with your professor.

Next time you pay a fee on campus, demand to know why it costs as much as it does. When the university administration starts getting overwhelmed with complaints, then maybe they will start to listen.



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