Students launch $200M suit against colleges

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Your money is being stolen by administration " No biggie, right?

On June 5, 2007 students Amanda Hassum and Daniel Roffey filed a $200 million class action lawsuit against 24 community colleges in Ontario. They’re demanding illegal ancillary fees be stopped and students be repaid.

After Amanda Hassum discovered what was happening to her money, she said she felt compelled to act.

“Honestly, I’m not a very political person, but students shouldn’t be paying fees that are illegal.”

Student payments are normally split in two: tuition covers maintenance and core necessities, while ancillary fees cover non-academic costs such as social and cultural services. Amanda Hassum said an average undergrad pays $679 in ancillary fees, some of which are illegal.

Jen Hassum is chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, an organization backing the lawsuit. Jen Hassum said university administrations have been using ancillary fees as a backdoor to fund maintenance and building projects.

“These fees are being put towards the bread and butter of universities, which is supposed to be covered by tuition,” she explained.

After filing the lawsuit, Amanda Hassum and Roffey sought help from Christopher Bentley, minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

He has been publicly quoted assuring his ministry will follow through with any formal complaints, but Bentley has ignored their demands.

“The main disappointment is Mr. Bentley ... After the plaintiffs formally complained to him, he refused to help,” Jen Hassum said. “It’s his responsibility to uphold the law.”

The plaintiffs were hoping Bentley could send a directive letter to university presidents, asking them to stop using ancillary fees illegally.

Bentley could not be reached for a comment, but Jen Hassum indicated he wanted to avoid involvement with a lawsuit.

A YouTube video alleges Dalton McGuinty, Ontario’s Premier, has known about the issue for 14 years. Amanda Hassum confirmed McGuinty voiced his opposition to illegal ancillary fees in 1993, but now he remains silent on the topic.

Amanda Hassum admits it was difficult to put herself in such a vulnerable position, but she remains positive. “I’ve put myself out there to get torn apart by the government and I really hope students have my back.”

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