With the Student Choice Initiative taking effect in the 2019–2020 academic year, U of T students can now choose to opt out of those incidental fees that have been deemed non-essential. This breakdown will offer insight on what U of T designates as “essential,” fees that may be charged on a mandatory basis, and “non-essential” — or in other words, optional.
Parting of the fees
Last March, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities put in place a set of guidelines that specify the categories of fees that are essential and non-essential. Essential services are limited to athletics and recreation, career services, student buildings, health and counselling, academic support, student ID cards, student achievement and records, financial aid offices, and campus safety programs. Health and dental programs are also deemed essential services, but students can opt-out if they provide proof of pre-existing coverage.
To determine which groups may charge fees on a mandatory basis and which groups must allow for students to opt out, U of T has consulted with student services and student societies.
“Ministry guidelines specify which categories of fees are mandatory and which are optional,” a representative from U of T Media Relations wrote to The Varsity. “Within this framework, the University worked with all student societies (organizations on whose behalf the University collects funds) and student services to determine all of the services and programs they offer.”
Because many of the existing services and programs were established in direct response to requests by students, and vary by campus, student status, faculty, college, and program, the cost of mandatory fees differs between students enrolled in full-time or part-time statuses, different colleges, and campuses.
UTSG, UTM, and UTSC students all pay mandatory fees toward Hart House clubs and programs, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education services, their respective student union, and their respective health and dental plan. UTSG students additionally pay their respective college’s student society fee or student council fee.
For non-essential services, fees mainly go toward funding student publications, clubs and social events, scholarships and bursaries, and programs for financially or socioeconomically disadvantaged students.
Essential, but not equal
Amongst UTSG colleges, students of federated colleges pay approximately $200 more. Paying the most in mandatory fees are Victoria College students, with a total sum of $901.90 The mandatory fees for Trinity College students, at $803.89 and St. Michael’s College students, at $826.94 follow closely behind.
Students from unfederated colleges pay significantly less for their mandatory fees; University College students pay $688.48, New College students pay $683.99, and Woodsworth College students pay $672.07. Innis College students pay the least amount across any campus or college, with their mandatory fees coming to a sum of $505.82.
On U of T’s other campuses, UTM students pay $799.12, while UTSC students pay slightly more at $833.12.
On average, across all three campuses, a student pays roughly $790 toward their mandatory incidental fees.
As for optional incidental fees, Trinity College students can pay up to $145.27 for services and programs, which is significantly more than that of any other college or campus. Innis College students can pay up to $71.13, Victoria College Students $65.41, St. Michael’s College students $60.21, University College students $55.68, New College students $52.24, and Woodsworth College students following behind at $49.30.
UTM students can pay up to $69.60 in optional fees, while UTSC students have the smallest total of optional fees, registering in at $41.52.
Across all campuses, the average total cost of optional fees is about $60.
Students can choose their opt-out selections for the fall 2019 term on ACORN before September 19.
With files from Ilya Bañares, Ibnul Chowdhury, Angela Feng, Srivindhya Kolluru, Kathryn Mannie, Harmanraj Wadhwa, and Nathalie Whitten.
Editor’s Note (September 19, 7:34 pm): This post was changed to reflect that Victoria College students pay $901.90 in mandatory fees instead of $901; that SMC students can pay up to $60.21 in optional fees instead of $56.58; and that UTM students can pay up to $69.60 in optional fees instead of $69.90.