Students Pleased with Progress on Per-Term Billing, Disappointed in Unfair Testing Fees

TORONTO, Dec. 5, 2013 /CNW/ - The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has announced a new set of guidelines for tuition billing processes and payment deadlines that are to come into effect by the 2015-2016 academic year. Policy changes include automatic per-term billing for students who receive financial aid through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and an opt-in option for per-term billing for non-OSAP students, the elimination of deferral fees for OSAP students, and an extension of the moratorium on universities moving towards flat-fee tuition billing until the conclusion of the current tuition framework.

"OUSA has been a long-time advocate for per-term tuition billing," said Amir Eftekarpour, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) President and Vice President External of the University Students' Council of Western University. "The government has recognized that allowing students the ability to pay their tuition in per-term installments, rather than all upfront, allows for greater flexibility for high need students to work-in study to finance their education."

Under the new university tuition fee framework and ancillary fee guidelines, students receiving financial assistance from OSAP will not be required to pay the full cost of their term's tuition until the OSAP disbursement date. Students who do not receive OSAP will not be required to pay the full cost of their tuition until one month before the commencement of their academic term.

The Ministry has also announced that the moratorium on universities moving towards flat-fee tuition billing structures will remain in place until at least the conclusion of the current tuition framework. By 2016-2017, any university that charges students flat fee tuition will be required to raise their threshold to 80% of a full course load.

"OUSA firmly believes that flat-fees are an inherently unfair tuition billing practice as they charge students for education they do not receive," continued Eftekarpour. "Students are highly appreciative of the progress being made towards a fairer tuition-billing system but express disappointment in its lengthy implementation period. For many students, the effects of this change will not be felt until the 2016-2017 academic year. OUSA remains committed to working with the government towards per-credit tuition for all students in Ontario."

Although concerned with the long timelines for the implementation of higher flat-fee thresholds, students are pleased to see that the Ministry has recognized OUSA's longstanding concern that students with disabilities are particularly disenfranchised by flat-fee tuition billing. Under these new policies, students with disabilities will be exempt from flat-fees.

Students are supportive of the Ministry's decision to eliminate graduation fees, but are disappointed in the lack of clarity and transparency regarding regulations around unfair online testing fees.

"Through tuition, undergraduates are paying to be evaluated by their professors," said Stephen Franchetto, OUSA Vice President Finance and Vice President University Affairs of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students' Union. "Increasingly, students are being asked to pay for access codes for online evaluation materials outside of the cost of their tuition. The lack of clarity in policy changes around these materials means that student unions will continue to be unfairly tasked with bringing concerning evaluation fees to the attention of the Ministry and have them dealt with inefficiently on a case-by-case basis."

About the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA)

OUSA represents the interests of over 140,000 professional and undergraduate, full- and part-time university students at eight member associations across Ontario.

SOURCE Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance

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