Camosun student union alarmed at changes to fee deadlines with two months notice

Camosun student union alarmed at changes to fee deadlines with two months notice

A last-minute tuition fee deadline change at a Vancouver Island college has some students scrambling to find the money to pay for their fall studies.

Camosun College has changed its fee deadline for the upcoming semester to be due mid-August rather than mid-September as in previous years, which the student union says is not enough notice for some students to acquire the money to pay for tuition.

In previous years, course fees were due two weeks into the semester, and students had just over one week to add or drop courses without financial penalty.

Now, starting in the upcoming fall semester, fees will be due one month before the semester starts and the deadline to add or drop without financial penalty is the day before courses start.

Scott Harris, registrar with Camosun College, says these changes were implemented to address the students who were signing up for courses to hold a spot then changing their minds after it was too late for another student to register.

“The changes were really primarily made to ensure that we were able to provide students with choice and be able to get into the classes that they wanted and needed,” Harris said in an interview with CHEK News.

“Historically, at the college, what would happen would be students would add a whole bunch of courses, and then not drop them until the very last minute, making it so that other students weren’t able to pick up the courses that they needed, and so a lot of the fees and deadline changes are really to encourage those kinds of behaviours to happen earlier in the cycle.”

With these changes, Harris says students who receive student loans, which aren’t received until within a week of the start of a semester, will have a deferral added to their file so the fees are paid once their student loan is received.

Additionally, the college is implementing a deferral option for students who are able to prove they have a source of guaranteed funding to be able to apply for a deferral to pay tuition fees.

Kate Love, finance executive, Camosun College Student Society says the student union has launched a survey to ask students how they feel, and the over 800 responses received so far show students are concerned about the changes.

“An international student, for example, their fees are four times the amount of a domestic student, and they’re not eligible for any student finance. You’re asking people that may be working minimum wage jobs to come up with $6,000 five weeks earlier,” Love said in an interview with CHEK News.

“Usually, people are budgeting to work full-time all summer in order to pay for the courses for fall, it goes to domestic and international students. Moving the goalposts on them with two months notice is not giving them time to save, they’re not physically able to do it.”

Harris notes that the deferral period may also apply to students who are working and believe they can earn enough money by a later date in order to pay their fees.

“The registration officer, the person taking the call, or adjudicating the application for a fee deferral would look at a variety of factors: Has the student generally paid on time? A student in good standing? All of those kinds of factors would would come into play,” Harris said.

“So if the student has been consistently defaulting on their financial obligations to the college, has found themselves repeatedly in arrears with the college, and then they don’t actually have proof, but are just saying, ‘I’ll do my best,’ that may not be enough.”

“But we’re not looking to punish students in any way. We’re really just looking to have students understand that making the decision earlier in the process is important for so many reasons.”

Love says in the survey marginalized students are concerned about how this change will impact them.

“What we’ve seen is a is going to disproportionately affect marginalized students, such as students with accessibility needs, low income, self funded students and international students. Anyone basically who’s not relying on a student loan is going to be negatively impacted by this change,” Love said. “We’ve got students that are having to choose between tuition and food or tuition and rent.”

In the 36 hours the student union’s survey has been live there have been over 800 responses, with 74 per cent of students saying they were not aware of the changes until the society sent the survey.

Love provided CHEK News with the email sent from the International Advisors office notifying students about the change. The subject line on the email is “[ARE YOU READY?] Registration for Fall 2022 Starts Next Week!”

The email starts by informing students how to check what their registration date is, then moves onto the steps for how to register.

The following sentence is where the college informs of the changes, and is found in the twelfth line of the email.

Text that says 4. Pay your fees. All fees must be paid by August 16, 2022! This is a new deadline. Starting Fall 2022 fee deadline will be before classes start. Students who have not paid all fees by this date will be taken out of all classes.

Harris says more information is going to be sent out to students starting Wednesday.

“All students, this afternoon actually, will receive the first of many communications about the changes and the communications are going to be really just in time communications to make sure we’re not getting too much information all at once, but giving them the information as we approach the term,” Harris said.

“And so today’s goes over a full summary of all of the dates and deadlines for each of their courses, as well as links to things like the deferral request form.”

Love says the student society has a meeting scheduled with representatives of the college on Thursday and they are hoping the college will reverse these changes.

“It was two months notice, we could have understood the fee deadline, if they maybe would have given a year’s notice, or put it forward a couple of semesters, so maybe the start of 2023,” Love said.

“But with two months notice it just hasn’t given students enough time to plan, it hasn’t given them enough time to budget, hasn’t given them enough time to prepare.”

Harris says this change was implemented to align with the start of a new school year.

“This is a fairly significant change, and usually a change like this is best suited at the start of an academic year not partway through an academic year,” Harris said, noting an email informing of the change was sent on June 16, before registration began. “We did let every student know prior to registering, that this was happening.”

Harris says the college has done its best to communicate with students about the impending change.

“So that’s almost three months, and it’s definitely two months prior to the actual due date,” Harris said. “So I mean, I guess it’s very subjective about what’s adequate notice that we did our very best to let students know, as early as possible and have a very comprehensive communications campaign for students.”

In addition to the fee changes, Love says the changes to the deadline to add or drop courses will impact students ability to determine if a class is right for them.

“We’ve got students who may or may not feel safe in classes, they may have been victimized, and they feel that they do not mesh with the teacher,” Love said.

“And these people now are going to be penalized from the first day of courses, if you go even one day, you’re going to lose 20 per cent of the fees that you’ve paid, if you drop out in the first week, after the first week, you lose 100 per cent of the fees that you’ve paid.”

Harris says all other colleges in B.C. have a similar fee payment or add/drop course requirement, but that Camosun has tried to be more lenient while implementing this new policy.

“I would say we’re taking quite a gentle hand with this,” Harris said. “In fact, when you compare to some of those peers, so our 80 per cent refund in the first week, just as an example, if you look at Douglas College, they’re 50 per cent refund in the first week. So if you’re dropping in the first week, you only receive half of your tuition back.”

For the upcoming fall semester, Douglas College allows students to drop up until Sept. 19 with a 5o per cent refund. At Camosun, students have until Sept. 12 to drop a course for an 80 per cent refund. For both these colleges, students will not receive any money back if they drop the course after the deadline.

While other colleges have similar policies, Harris notes it is different for universities, who normally have policies that have deadlines for tuition or to add or drop a course after the start of the semester.

Love says students also may feel the need to drop courses after receiving a course outline and realise the course load is higher than they believe they can manage.

“It’s gonna have a huge effect on students who have got disabilities mental health concerns, students with childcare needs, usually at Camosun you will not get the course outline until the day that you start the course,” Love said.

“Usually students don’t actually know until the start of the course whether they’re going to be able to manage the course load.”

Harris says students will have a chance to switch sections of a course during the 80 per cent refund period without financial penalty.

“So for example, if they’re in a section of Class A, and they realized that perhaps the instructors teaching style doesn’t meet their needs, they can switch to another section of the course, if there’s availability, and there’s, there’s no refund implications to that,” Harris said noting that if another section of the course didn’t fit with the student’s needs they would have to make the decision to stay in the course, or choose to drop it.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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