November 14, 2019

Roughly 70 per cent of students – more than 10,000 – at Conestoga College chose to pay optional fees this semester, according to Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) President Scot Wyles.

Optional fees, which were instituted for the first time this fall as part of the province’s so-called “student choice initiative,” cover a number of secondary services, and had been mandatory in the past. The initiative excludes services the province considers essential, like health and counselling, recreation and academic support.

According to a news release in January from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the initiative is meant to ensure that “every individual student in Ontario will be empowered to choose which student fees they want to pay and how that money will be allocated.”

For full-time Conestoga students the fees totalled $94, and included payments to CSI, alumni services and a locker fee, but can be broken down and opted in or out of, individually. The most substantial was a $40 CSI event fee.

The CSI budget, which is normally approved by the previous November, wasn’t fully accounted until the opt out deadline in the third week of September this year, leaving CSI to depend on estimates.

Although the college’s budget projections overestimated the ratio of students that would opt out entirely – as high as 60 per cent – the CSI event budget still took a hit.

But according to Wyles, they expected the loss and re-organized their efforts accordingly.

“Instead of having all these small events like we did last year, or having one or two events a week, where we’re giving out free food and stuff, we’ve stopped those small events and we’re doing more of these larger, more meaningful events,” he said in an interview Friday.

“Because we find value in these services and so do the students, we don’t feel that we can just get rid of them completely because of government change, so we’re just restructuring how we present them to the students.”

According to a document outlining the changes in ancillary fee payments, published in March of this year by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, institutions are “encouraged” to apply the optional fee structure to both international and domestic students.

In its annual business plan – which was written before the ministry guidelines were released – it appears Conestoga College plans to offset the reduction in ancillary fees with funds collected from international students.

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