Undergraduate incidental fees approved by WUSA and UWaterloo 

WUSA logo
Seneca Velling
VP Operations & Finance
Mon, 04/13/2020 - 19:00

There’s been a lot to consider – and reconsider – as we look ahead to online instruction for spring term. While the University of Waterloo works to deliver the quality of education you’ve come to expect, your student association is working to continue our relationship with you (while trying to reduce the sticker price of doing so).  

If you haven’t already, let us know how we can best support you through this next term by completing our Student Needs Survey [external link]. Your feedback will help us find new opportunities to connect virtually and meet your needs while classes remain online. 

We believe it is both your education and your experience that shape your story while in University. When you look back on your time at the University of Waterloo, we want you to do so fondly. While we know this spring term isn’t what any of us expected, we want you to know you can still rely on us to be your advocate throughout this difficult time.  

Understanding this term will be unlike any other before it, we have reassessed our fees and wanted to make you aware of those changes.  

Principles in reviewing (and removing) fees 

WUSA took a principled approach to make sure the fees you’re paying line up with the services you expect, while also ensuring we’re ready to hit the ground running to support you when things return to normal. Below were some of the key tenets WUSA and UW used to assess whether a fee should be charged: 

  • The service levels of any charged fees need to be reasonably comparable to that of an on-campus term

  • Recurring annual expenses, which are necessary to comply with minimum legal and contractual obligations, should be recoverable through fees if related to reasonably deliverable programming (e.g. salaries and benefits, insurance, audit, facilities maintenance, etc.) 

  • Student volunteers who serve as Directors for WUSA and its Societies hold various personal liabilities under Ontario governing law [external link] for some “mandatory spending” 

  • Advocacy efforts which address urgent need (e.g. suspension of interest and payment on student loan debt) through direct lobbying to the University and all levels of government, have increased considerably. These costs fall into what is considered a “public good” as most all students are the beneficiaries, and none are excluded in reaping the benefits; therefore, these fees will remain 

  • Funding governance operations for the Students’ Council, remote participation in WUSA and UW Committees, holding of elections, referenda, and general meetings are mandates under our Charter and Bylaws and must remain 

  • Group benefits programs WUSA is legally or contractually obligated to pay must be charged (e.g. Waterloo Student Health Plan). Most all such programs are refundable. Students electing not to participate or who demonstrate alternative proof-of-coverage are eligible for refunding 

  • Administered programs which provide essential goods and services to those with critical need (e.g. Student Refugee Program) should remain 

  • Key services and programming that have seen or are reasonably expected to see an increase in demand should remain (e.g. Student Food Bank, MATES, Centre for Academic Policy Support, Turnkey operations, etc.) 

  • All other programming, services, and offerings, if able to be pivoted to online, should be charged at a rate proportional to their effective service level – or not at all 

  • Current optional fees meeting the above criteria should remain so, allowing students to decide their value and/or benefit. Similarly, fees that would be overwhelmingly opted-out of or refunded en masse should not be charged to begin with, to reduce administrative burden and minimize future costs 

  • Fees should be considered equally, irrespective of whether they fund the university, student government, endowments/charities, or other operations. 

These are many of the values we used to assess your undergraduate student fees together with senior administration at the University of Waterloo. Ultimately, the modified schedule of incidental recommended by WUSA was proposed to the President and Provost, to whom the Board of Governors delegated authority for approval (page 23, Board of Governors Agenda)

Below you’ll find a breakdown of each fee and the rationale behind their status. These fees were removed on the basis that their programming and service levels cannot be delivered to the same degree students were receiving when on campus: 

Clubs Funding | $3.23

While many clubs have moved operations online, the quantity and quality of offerings to students is severely limited this spring, and many fixed costs could be eliminated. Accordingly, WUSA decided not to charge the Clubs Funding Fee.  
Clubs can still apply for funding as needed from WUSA’s Clubs Surplus and Liability Reserve and WUSA will support any way we can to help keep students engaged and connected. 

Events | $6.30

Many of the planned events for spring 2020 were cancelled and adaptability of events remains dependent on student feedback. While we are not charging the fee, that does not mean we won’t be holding events! We are working to provide virtual programming, as directed by the feedback we hear from you in our survey. 

Athletics and Recreation | $96.06 

The Athletics and Recreation Student Services Fee will not be charged, as access to campus gyms, training facilities, fields, and classes is infeasible or significantly reduced as a result of COVID-19.  
Athletics and Recreation continues to provide online physical training and wellness programming, as well as at-home work-out options for students! Follow @wloorec for great tips on relaxing and staying in shape while studying remotely.

GRT UPass | $101.07 

Note: GRT will be free until the end of May 2020, at which time the Region will be reassessing transit and determining next steps. 

With a significant number of students no longer residing in the Region of Waterloo and the UPass Agreement’s provisions that remote students could be refunded the UPass Fee, it made little sense to charge a fee that would be refunded for upwards of 80% of students. 

After discussion with Grand River Transit (GRT), this fee was removed and UPass has temporarily been suspended for the Spring 2020 Term, except for with students who would receive ridership for intersessional or co-op terms. WUSA is in discussion with GRT on opt-ins, for students who wish to participate in spring if transit is no longer free but remains operational. 

Society & College Student Association Fees | (various amounts)

In close consultation with its constituency Societies, and in consideration of input from UWaterloo Finance on the difficulty of prorating a significant number of fees, WUSA has removed all Societies fees. In addition to any faculty or college support, WUSA of course will provide for any fixed/sunk costs the Societies have over spring term. 

Endowment/Foundation Fees | (various amounts) 

Considering the voluntary nature of these fees and the joint desire of UW and WUSA to reduce the financial burden on students, all Endowment Funds’ and Foundations’ fees were removed from the spring tuition statements, with some exceptions. 

Optional fees include: 

University and Government Advocacy | $4.26 

Our advocacy efforts are especially prominent during this time, as we work to ensure your concerns are heard and needs are considered. We will continue to do all we can to advocate for and support students while classes are online.

Community-Building Services | $7.68 

While normally this fee supports community-building services operated by WUSA, this spring, these funds will support community and social opportunities for students, and one-off events for those who do not opt-out.

Imprint | $4.42 

Imprint requested WUSA preserve their fee, noting that publication and news coverage would continue online. Learn more about Imprint [external link].

Student Legal Protection Service | $17.94 (co-op) 

The Student Legal Protection Service is an annualized group benefits program for those students who choose to participate. This program is billed termly and provides annual coverage. Please note, opting back into this program is not possible for those who opt-out.

Student Refugee Program | $4.95 

This programming provides essential goods and services to support Student Refugees whom WUSA, UWaterloo, and the Affiliated & Federated Institutions have agreed to sponsor. Despite online classes, these commitments remain, and funds directly support student refugees studying at Waterloo.  

Mandatory fees include: 

Health & Safety Fee | $19.92

During spring term, this fee will provide additional funding to the Student Foodbank, MATES, wellness programming, some equity support services, and will continue advocacy work with the Region/City including UPass renegotiation.  

Services such as the Student Foodbank and MATES have seen a considerable increase in use, which is expected to continue. WUSA has committed an additional $10,000 to MATES and $8,000 to the Student Foodbank.

Corporations Act Compliance | $24.05 

This fee supports annualized costs that WUSA is legally obligated to pay as a non-profit regulated in Ontario [external link] or contractually obligated to pay pursuant to agreements with or policies established by the University of Waterloo. This fee includes compliance costs and the overhead associated with their administration, such as audit, legal, and insurance costs; the Board of Directors; the Students’ Council and General Meetings; and elections. 

Academic Support | $5.71 

This fee enables WUSA to provide support for students with academic grievances, discipline, petitions, and appeals; provide student representation on academic disciplinary bodies for co-op and regular academic matters; and advocate and advise on student safety on and off campus. 

Student Life Centre Facilities | $4.29 

This fee supports the annualized costs of facilities operations, maintenance, and management costs for the Student Life Centre (SLC). The SLC remains open to provide some services to students including: pharmacy access, hygiene products, food, and other staples such as inter-regional transit. We will continue to provide SLC updates during COVID-19. 

Undergraduate Student Capital Program Fee | $15 

Unlike the other operating fees, the Capital Program Fee is a capital (rather than operating) fee. It supports the maintenance, deferred maintenance, renewal, capital improvement, and future expansions of student common areas acrosscampus (including the SLC, MathSoc’s MC Comfy, and EngSoc’s POETS). This fee was established in fall 2019 to build up a long-term strategic fund to support these costs into the future.

Health Plan | $105.71 

The Health Plan Fee is an annualized benefits program for participating students to support the payment of premiums into the Waterloo Student Health Plan, which all undergraduate students by default are part of (unless they opt-out). This program will continue to provide insurance coverage during the spring term and by consequence is to be charged to all students according to the pre-existing schedule. 

Dental Plan | $115.98 

The Dental Plan Fee is an annualized benefits program for participating students to support the payment of premiums into the Waterloo Student Dental Plan, which all undergraduate students by default are part of (unless they opt-out). This program will continue to provide insurance coverage during the Spring Term and by consequence is to be charged to all students according to the pre-existing schedule. 

Student Services Fee – Student Buildings | $4.93 

This fee recovers the salary and wage costs associated with Turnkey and SLC operations which are not covered under the SLC Facilities Fee. See SLC Facilities fee for more on the status of the SLC during COVID-19. 

Although we hope to see everyone back on campus for September, we will continue to stay updated on the situation and will advise of any changes for Fall fees as more information becomes available in the coming months.