Student fees support some amazing things

The real problem is rising tuition, say student leaders
Oct. 12/2012 - Trent University, Peterborough Ontario. Alexia Gezink (white sweater), 3rd yr International Development, Kayley Marsh (purple), 5th yr Environmental Science, Kirsten Goeckel, 1st yr nursing and Garden Assistant (grey), and Dan Legault, 2nd yr Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems and Garden Coordinator, tend to Trent’s rooftop Vegetable Garden.

Alexia Gezink, Kayley Marsh, Kirsten Goeckel and Dan Legault tend to Trent's rooftop garden

This is a response to Liam Ledgerwood’s argument against student union fees, which appeared in The Arthur at Trent University. What do you think about student fees? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter @maconcampus, or on Facebook.

We are sorry to hear that levy fees are troubling you and that you feel ripped off. Further, it is extremely troubling to hear of such an abuse of student monies at York—that is wrong. However, your piece misses some of the most amazing work these levies accomplish. Here is a quick, incomplete list of what they support:

—two food banks, feeding both hungry students and those less fortunate in the Peterborough community
—a free market to exchange goods
—a pan-campus and Peterborough-wide anti-rape campaign
—a transit system used by some 6,000 people daily
—a health benefits plan, which students can remove themselves from, used by 3,000 students
—employment for more than 100 students offering invaluable job experience (for example: Arthur staff writer)
—political and charitable goals including raising money for Haiti after their last earthquake, talking about mental health on campus, and helping those who cannot afford the full cost of childcare.

This work could not be done if we spent 25 per cent or 50 per cent of our time raising money, a very real likelihood. We would become fundraisers, not change makers. Levy fees, refundable or not, allow us to not worry about raising money, but instead to accomplish great things in our community.

Further, the books of these organizations are public. Any member can get access to these budgets (what is spent, how much we fund-raise and more) to find out how we are using these funds.

Levies, clubs and groups may not touch on all areas of student involvement and desire, and they may not appeal to everyone. However, their existence is not based on one student’s desire; they are based upon a majority vote.

The cost of a university education is immense and the debt load is grotesque. However, one thing that troubles us is the idea that levies are the problem. These fees, whether you like electoral democracy or hate it, are voted on by students. Any full-time student can start a petition to challenge them. The ultimate decision-makers are students. The fees only increase at the rate of inflation.

Yet, year-after-year our tuition fees rise by five per cent (twice the rate of inflation), some $300 a year ($800 a year for international students). No administrator will ask you whether you like it or not, or ask you to vote on it. You will simply pay it. It is the cost, right or wrong, to attend university.