If you fancy a bottle of Coke or a sugary snack but don’t have the cash, you can indulge your sweet tooth by adding a buck fifty to your credit card bill. Several vending machines throughout Kwantlen give students the option to swipe their VISA or Mastercard, but that’s a convenience students can’t use when it comes time to pay their tuition.
The school chose to end credit card payment for tuition beginning in the fall 2010 semester, explaining the transaction fees credit companies charge is “quite absorbent,” especially when thousands of students pay their tuition during the same period.
The university has stated that it expects to save $250,000. The money will go to students in the form of scholarships and bursaries.
Kwantlen isn’t the first post-secondary institution to implement the change. Both the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University have also stopped accepting credit cards as a method of tuition payment.
On the Kwantlen website, it states that the only things domestic students can’t pay with a credit card are tuition, student fees and KSA fees. Other fees and services are payable with credit.
According to the school, “you can use your VISA or Mastercard for the commitment fee but that’s as far as it goes.”
Many students may not have noticed when the KSA held a referendum last fall to add new programs by increasing the fees students pay. But after paying this semesterâ€™s tuition, many more will have.
Every fee increase voted on during the fall 2009 referendum was approved.
â€œWe werenâ€™t expecting all of them to pass,â€ said Steve Lee, the KSA’s director ofÂ finance, â€œso when all of them did, it made things more challenging in terms of what resources would go where for this year, while keeping to the commitment of ensuring that the total increase would not be more than 15 per cent of what we were already collecting.â€
That 15 per cent restriction means that only five of the programs approved by students will be implemented this year. None of the other fees approved will be added until the fall, but fees will be adjusted on an annual basis starting in the fall of 2010, and each subsequent September, until all of the approved programs are up and running.
The KSA chose which programs would be implemented first, based on a combination of which referendum questions received the most student support and which programs could most quickly be put in place, said Lee.
The five program fees that the KSA decided to add to this semesterâ€™s tuition include the sub fee, START volunteer program fee, REEBOOT program fee, intramurals fee and the clubs and events fee.
â€œREEBOOT was ready for implementation, as was START,â€ said Lee. â€œEvents was a no-brainer, as that funding will help relieve pressure on our base budget.â€
Another one of the fee increases that will help the KSAâ€™s bottom line in 2010 is the sub fee increase. According to Lee, that fee will help the KSA to meet the repayment schedule on a $1.6-million loan made by the student association in the late ’90s to help pay for the social areas of the recently renamed G-Building, the Surrey campus home to the gym, fitness centre, KSA offices and the Grassroots CafÃ©.
â€œThe bulk of this (loan) has been paid back,â€ said Lee, â€œbut there is still some money outstanding and our goal is to eliminate that debt as soon as possible.â€
Any money left over after the student associationâ€™s debt repayment will be banked and earmarked for a new Student Union Building in Surrey, as well as for student centres on the Richmond, Langley and Cloverdale campuses.
The START volunteer program is aimed at getting more students involved in the KSA through volunteer opportunities. The KSA will hire some students as volunteer coordinators and others will be able to gain experience volunteering around campus.
Students who have computers in need of repair will be able to take advantage of the KSAâ€™s new REEBOOT program. The program will allow students to get computers and laptops serviced at a low cost.
The clubs and events program fee will be used by the KSA to offset money they are currently spending on events. This funding in 2010 will also go towards restoring the KSA staff position of events and clubs coordinator.
Students interested in athletics will be able to take advantage of the intramurals program, which will lead to intramural sport leagues. According to Lee, the intramurals program will be run in cooperation with the university, which has proposed matching the funds the KSA puts into the program dollar for dollar.
“Emily” is a 24-year-old Kwantlen student and single mother of two small children, and at an Oct. 15 meeting her life story was used to give a human face to the issue of university funding cutbacks.
At the meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, two representatives from the Kwantlen Faculty Association used Emily’s story, as well as warnings about the current financial crisis, to appeal for restoration of post-secondary funding, which was cut 2.6 per cent in the March provincial budget.Vice-president Maureen Shaw, who is also an English instructor, appeared with secretary-treasurer and chemistry instructor Suzanne Pearce to share a Kwantlen counsellor’s story about Emily. She entered Kwantlen’s Special Education Teacher’s Assistant Program at the age of 19, already with a one-year-old child, and quickly became a star student, earning a GPA of 3.5 and serving as a student assistant.
Two years later, however, her marriage fell apart. Her husband and family abandoned her, and with all her family and financial supports gone, her student loans couldn’t cover rent, car expenses and daycare, driving her into debt.
Nt wanting to quit school altogether, Emily tried distance education but ran into more challenges, including a serious car accident and her son’s illness, beforeÂ eventually recovering and rebuilding.
The biggest obstacle students face to completing their education, according to Shaw and Pearce, is financial. Restoration of the 2.6 per cent of funding that was cut was one of five recommendations they presented to the committee. The other four were restoring real per-student funding to 2001 levels, committing to reducing tuition fees over the next five years, providing funding for Kwantlen’s elevation to university status and bringing back the student grant program.
“It’ll be awhile before we know how the recommendations are received,” said Shaw. Every fall, the provincial government puts out a priority paper outlining the main areas for government funding in the upcoming provincial budget. Groups such as the Kwantlen Faculty Association, as well as the public, are invited to submit briefs at committee hearings, to try to influence, and make recommendations for, priorities for government funding. According to Shaw, the committees are primarily made up of Liberal MLAs.
New Kwantlen president David Atkinson was the first speaker at the Oct. 15 meeting. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 24, after which the committee will issue its final report, on Nov. 15.
“There’s a lot of demands on the government dollars,” said Shaw, but added that if they hear from enough people that it’s a concern, the government might decide to act.