The Student Choice Initiative will allow students to opt out of certain non-essential incidental fees. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

In anticipation of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh gave some of the first comments on the university’s progress on the issue at the University Affairs Board (UAB) meeting for March. The UAB also passed fee increases for Campus Life incidental fees, which include those for Student Life, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE), and Hart House.

As the Senior Assessor, Welsh reported that the university is currently waiting on the provincial government to provide more details on the SCI before any determination of essential and non-essential fees can be made.

The SCI is the provincial government’s plan to implement opt-out options for “non-essential” student fees, which could see many student clubs and services lose a significant portion of their funding.

Welsh brought up the current loose guidelines given for determining which fees are essential, showing a slide from a presentation made by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU). The full presentation was obtained by The Varsity in early February and includes enforcement and rollout guidelines for the SCI.

The slide, titled “The Ancillary Fee Classification Framework,” listed athletics and recreation, career services, health and counselling, academic support, student ID cards, transcripts and convocation processes, financial aid offices, walksafe programs, student buildings and centres, and student transit passes as essential. Health and dental plans will also remain essential fees, while those with outside coverage can continue to opt out, which is in line with the current system for U of T.

Susan Froom, the UAB member representing part-time students, urged the university and Welsh to categorize as many fees as possible as essential.

Froom also raised concerns about how the SCI could impact Student Life, which provides services that could be categorized as non-essential, such as the Multi-Faith Centre, the Family Care Office, and the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office. Welsh replied that the university and her office do not have enough information about the classification process to provide further information, and are awaiting the final details from the provincial government.

Welsh also did not rule out the university centralizing or otherwise subsidizing impacted student societies when asked by another member of the UAB.

In a statement to The Varsity, TCU Ministry Issues Coordinator Ciara Byrne wrote that Minister Merrilee Fullerton had heard concerns from “many post-secondary students” about mandatory fees and that guidelines for the SCI would be released to institutions “shortly.”

The UAB also approved a 4.8 per cent increase for Student Life fees charged to full-time UTSG students, who will pay $164.24, an increase of $7.52 from this year. All fee increases must continue to move through the governance process and be passed by Governing Council before taking effect.

Senior Director of Student Experience David Newman also reported on Student Life, whose accessibility and Health & Wellness services would be considered essential. Newman explained that the administration would try to decrease reliance on student fees for Student Life programs and services, as additional staff had been hired this year.

The UAB also passed a $4.82, or 2.55 per cent, increase for KPE co-curricular programs, services, and facilities. Full-time students would pay $193.82 for services like U of T Sports & Rec, the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, Athletic Centre, Varsity Centre, and the David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic.

Pending approval by Governing Council, students could see a fee increase for Hart House of $8.56, a 9.57 per cent increase totalling to $97.96.

John Monahan, Warden of Hart House, reported to the board that Hart House was preparing for its centennial celebration and would use the funds for continuing renovations in the Arbor Room, replacing the pool skylight, and increasing security.

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