POLITICS
08/21/2019 10:41 EDT | Updated 08/21/2019 17:26 EDT

Ford Government Fee Policy Will Save Students Way Less Than Promised $1,000

Some of the fees that students can opt out of cost a few cents per credit.

Canadian Press
Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Ross Romano poses with Premier Doug Ford during a 2018 election stop in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

TORONTO — The Ontario government’s “Student Choice Initiative” will save students far less than the $1,000 per year the Progressive Conservatives said it would.

The policy lets Ontario university students opt out of paying certain fees, like those for student unions and clubs, for the first time this year. 

Most undergraduate students at York University can save a maximum of $2.86 per credit by declining to pay charges like 11 cents to fund the Centre for Women and Trans People, 17 cents for a legal aid program and $1.28 for a student union. At York’s Glendon College, students have the option to save two cents per class if they don’t want to support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) club. 

A full course load at York is 30 credits, so students can save a maximum of $85.80.

Students at some other schools will be able to save more.

Algoma University/Facebook
Guests attend Algoma University's 2019 convocation ceremony at Roberta Bondar Park in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

At Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., a full-time undergraduate student can save up to $188. The student union there collects $64 for operations, $29 for events and $6 for clubs and student media. 

In some cases, students who opt out of certain fees will no longer be able to access services or attend events. 

For example, at Brock University, first-year students who don’t pay the $113 “engagement levy” won’t be able to attend student union events without paying at the door. 

Provincewide, students who want to opt out of health and dental plans, which could save them hundreds of dollars, have to prove they already have other insurance coverage. 

Government said students could save $1,000

The government originally said the policy could save students up to $1,000 a year. 

Some student groups have said the policy will be disastrous for them because they rely on student levies for funding. 

Two student unions are taking the government to court over the policy. The Canadian Federation of Students and the York Federation of Students argue that the government is unfairly going after student unions and interfering with the ability of universities to make their own decisions. 

Premier Doug Ford celebrated the funding cut for what he called “crazy Marxist nonsense” that student unions “get up to” in a fundraising email to supporters in February.

A spokeswoman for Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Ross Romano did not address HuffPost Canada’s question about the disparity between what the government said students could save and what they will actually save. 

As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.Ministry spokeswoman Tanya Blazina

“The Student Choice Initiative will ensure that ancillary fees are clearly communicated to all students, so that students may choose which services they support on their campuses. It is our Government’s priority to ensure that access to essential health and safety programs, such as mental health and counselling, are maintained on public campuses,” Tanya Blazina said in an email. 

“As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that most York University students would only save $2.86 per year — that amount can actually be saved per credit. In total, students would save $85.80, if they have a full course load and opt out of all fees.