Optional fees: make an informed decision

WUSA logo
Katherine Bradshaw
Communications and Media Relations Manager
Wed, 11/20/2019 - 10:00

With the provincial government’s announcement of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) earlier this year, some of your fees were made optional and deemed non-essential to your student experience.  

While we are not shy about disputing how the provincial government chooses to define “non-essential”, we do agree with your right to choose. We also believe in your right to make an informed decision. We recognize our responsibility in that and take our commitment to be accountable and honest very seriously – which is exactly why we included it in our brand promise to you!  

Accountable and Honest: We maintain a responsible student government with sound financial practices, focused on the needs of undergrads through a student-driven decision-making process and regular updates on our progress.

As we approach winter term, we wanted to be sure you had all the facts and knew where to turn for more information. Bottom line? We want you to be informed and stay informed. In fact, the more informed you are, the better equipped you are to advocate on behalf of the areas that matter most to you– and what matters most to you is what matters most to us.  

As you’ll see in our brand promise, we’re committed to providing you with regular updates on our progress. With this fall term being the first rollout of SCI, we’ve got one for you – where we ended up with our optional fee payment rates last term.  

We’ve got a breakdown below, but for those of you who want the background, we encourage you to check out the full Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Report (get comfortable first though, it’s a 90-pager!!). If you have any questions, you’re welcome to bring them directly to us. Seneca would be happy to chat all things budget with you (seriously, he probably talks budgets in his sleep).   

 Seneca reading about budgets

Shaping the student experience, how you define it 

The University of Waterloo (by design) is very academically driven. That focus pays off when each year we see Maclean’s rank Waterloo among the top three universities in Ontario.

We know the students here value academia too; just not at the sacrifice of their social life or mental health. From what we’ve heard, students are overwhelmingly aware of the need for extracurriculars to counter their rigid class schedules.   

We agree with you. That’s why we prioritize offering you these services; services that were deemed non-essential to your student experience by the provincial government and the university.   

We get it — they’re focused on academics. We’ll keep focusing on you. Here’s how:  

University advocacy  

For over 50 years, students have amplified our collective voice to the university, bringing our concerns directly to the decision-makers.  

While you can’t just bust into the university president’s office, you can do that with your WUSA president. In fact, we encourage it. We need it! Michael then meets with the UW president, provost, and other senior administration and serves as the lead undergrad student voice on the board of governors and the student senate.  

Whether it’s a survey or a chat with Michael, student input – your input – helps set our direction and determine the causes we advocate for. Every collective group needs a voice. Your elected WUSA student representatives are that voice – advocating on your behalf for things like fall break, mental health, affordability, co-op, teaching quality and student supports.  

You tell us your issues and we use our platform to make real change.  

This fee saw an opt-out rate of 23.58% (or 6.93% per dollar of fee) last term.  

Government advocacy  

WUSA government advocacy brings student voices to the decision-makers at local, provincial, and federal government levels to ensure education is accessible, affordable and of the highest quality for all students. 

Sounds simple enough, right? Not exactly. But it’s always worth it! We do this by putting together documents that identify the issues and list recommendations to resolve them. 

When an issue arises at one of these levels of government, we pick which would be most strategic to lobby for and bring 2-3 recommendations to our meetings with stakeholders. 

We present our argument, make suggestions on how they can fix it and ask them to take on the cause – your cause. The causes you care about, brought to the decision-makers who can make the change. For a timely and tangible example, check out our University/Lester traffic signal, installed just yesterday. 

This fee also goes toward transit program negotiation, wayfinding on campus, and Ezra street issues through the unsanctioned gatherings task force for the city/region. 

This fee saw an opt-out rate of 25.12% (or 3.89% per dollar of fee) last term.  

Events  

Your WUSA events team organizes your favourite campus events from Welcome Week’s Sex Toy Bingo and the Fall Carnival to Cultural Caravan, and more!  

Our events are a great time for you to connect with fellow Warriors outside the classroom, strengthening relationships and creating memories that will last a lifetime. We’re constantly on the lookout for new events to bring to campus so you can shape the university experience you want. Got an idea? We want to hear it!  

Not only are these events a good time, they're a great opportunity to get involved within your campus community. Whether you’re looking to gain leadership experience by coordinating events, or just want to lend a hand, the possibilities are plenty!

This fee saw an opt-out rate of 20.57% (or 3.69% per dollar of fee) last term.  

Student-run services  

WUSA student-run services provide positive community-building, social opportunities, niche advocacy efforts, and resume-building volunteer positions. These services enrich the Waterloo campus beyond their individual communities to create an inclusive environment for all students, no matter your interests. 

These include the Bike Centre, International and Canadian Student Network (ICSN), Co-op Connection, Off-Campus Community, and Sustainable Campus Initiative - all services provided to students, by students.

This fee saw an opt-out rate of 22.29% (or 10.37% per dollar of fee) last term.  

Clubs funding  

We have been fostering the official club system since day one and currently support over 250 clubs — truly representing the vast diversity we are so proud of.   

Clubs are constantly shaping student culture and adding a level of belonging to Waterloo that the university hasn’t been able to achieve.  

The Club Support Team volunteers dedicate countless hours to help clubs one-on-one with efficiencies. As a result, we help clubs do more with less. Your WUSA clubs fee is passed onto clubs providing them with meeting spaces, bookable resources, lockers, and more! It helps them get their ideas moving and supports club members.  

We feel a strong dedication to our Clubs because they have proven to us that they make Waterloo a better place. We always look forward to hearing the next great idea from one of our students. Tell us yours!  

This fee saw an opt-out rate of 17.76% (or 7.08% per dollar of fee) last term.  

As for the rest... 

WUSA Operating Fees came in at a median opt-rate of 22.29%.  

Societies Operating Fees saw a median opt-out rate of 15.43%.  

WUSA’s Optional Administered Fund Fees saw a media opt-out rate of 21.15%.  

The Orientation Fee had an opt-out rate of 4.71%. 

Looking ahead... 

Last semester, we set up WUSA booths educating students about the changes during Welcome Week and giving those who wanted to attend events, the opportunity to opt back in. It’s important to know for this option that those who opt back in will be subject to ticket pricing, or a 20% late payment surcharge in addition to the original fee. Look for more of these next semester.  

We encourage you to make an informed decision. By understanding each fee and what it goes toward, your decision lets us know where you see value. We want to keep bringing you value in the areas that matter most to us. This is your opportunity to let us know. 
 
We’re listening.