The Open Letter
“Student Choice Initiative” and non-essential/optional fees
Dear December 2019 Niagara College Students,
On January 17th, 2019, the provincial government made an announcement regarding post-secondary education which included three separate components;
OSAP program reform – to reduce provincial deficit
10% off domestic student tuition – to make education more affordable
Student Choice Initiative – to give students choice
If you’re an OSAP eligible student, by now you likely have a sense of your OSAP funding formula; typically less funding overall, more loan than grant and now you pay interest on your OSAP loan portion upon graduation (no more 6months interest free).
10% off domestic student tuition definitely decreased the sticker price of tuition, but leaves colleges to make up the difference in the lack of funding in other ways. The impact of the 10% has yet to be determined, but tuition savings is a reality.
The third component of the announcement is what your Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC) would like to address; the “Student Choice Initiative” or optional student fees.
Now, for full disclosure please understand that in previous years, 95% of NCSAC’s operating budget was comprised of the mandatory Student Activity Fee ($72/student in 2018-2019). So, does the Student Choice Initiative have an impact on us, yes; could it have possibly wiped out student government on campus, yes; could it have eradicated the student voice on campus; yes…but based on the final framework of the announcement and the services deemed “essential” by the government, NCSAC will remain at least 50% whole.
This open letter could be seen as a strong arming tool to convince you to stay opted into fees, but it’s not. We simply want you to get educated on what you’re giving up if you opt-out of your fees. So please, do yourself a favour and before you uncheck boxes via the online opt-out portal, understand what you will be giving up if you forgo paying the $39.35 in non-essential NCSAC ancillary fees.
What are ancillary fees?
To understand the Student Choice Initiative, you first have to understand what an ancillary fee is. Ancillary fees are “fees that are imposed by NCSAC and Niagara College, in addition to regular tuition fees, which a student is required to pay in order to enroll in, or successfully complete, any credit course.” In short an ancillary fee is one that you have to pay to go to school but can’t be included in the actual tuition cost.
There are now two different types of NCSAC ancillary fees; essential (deemed mandatory by the government for all students to pay) and non-essential (students have the choice to opt-out if they don’t want to pay).
Here is the confirmed list of NCSAC ancillary fees for the 2019-2020 school year:
Essential (The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and University has deemed these to be mandatory fees, and therefor cannot be opted out based on their framework.):
U-Pass/Transit - $192.50/semester – provides students with unlimited transit within the Niagara Region.
Student Buildings - $80/semester – supports the venues and spaces on campus operated by your NCSAC to run student activities and operations.
NCSAC Academic Support - $3/semester – allows NCSAC to provide student support through academic appeals and policy interpretation.
*Health Plan - $132/semester - you can opt-out of this fee if you can prove that you already have similar health plan coverage.
Non-essential (students can choose whether or not they want to pay):
NCSAC Membership - $11.25/semester – This fee supports the governance side of NCSAC. From student advocacy on campus, to leadership and employment opportunities, this fee is the basis of what NCSAC stands for; to support students and amplify their voice.
If you opt-out of Membership: If you choose to opt-out of membership, you will not be able to run for the NCSAC Board of Directors, vote in student referendums, vote in elections, be employed by NCSAC on campus (we provide jobs on our promotional street team, in our food operations and have other employment opportunities).
NCSAC Services – $5.50/semester – Supports NCSAC in providing services to students via economy of scale; the more students who stay opted-in, the more services we can provide and the less expensive facilitating our services gets.
If you opt-out of Services: If you choose to opt-out of Services, you will not receive a free student handbook (you will have to purchase one instead), you will not be entitled to free garbage tags, you will not be eligible to purchase discounted amusement tickets, or have access to other NCSAC Services that we feel are valuable.
NCSAC Social Programming – $16.10/semester – This fee provides the base for NCSAC student events on campus. From pub nights and karaoke to trivia nights and guest speakers on campus, your social programming fee will provide you with a mix of free events and discounted events throughout the semester.
If you opt-out of Social Programming: If you choose to opt-out of Social Programming, you will pay full retail price for each event on campus and may miss out on some events that are open to only those students who have paid the social programming fee (typically capacity dependent).
NCSAC Clubs – $1.50/semester – The clubs fee supports the clubs system on campus. From general interest to academic clubs, your NCSAC makes it easy for students to socialize and for like-minded students to get together. We provide funding and room bookings to clubs, adding to campus life.
If you opt-out of Clubs: If you choose to opt-out of Clubs, you will not be able to start a club, join a club, or take part in any club activities for the semester.
Sustainability - $5.00/semester – The Sustainability fee supports sustainable initiatives on campus. From student ideas coming to life on campus, to greening NC campuses and helping reduce our campus environmental impacts, the sustainability fee provides the financial support to add a sustainable lens.
If you opt-out of Sustainability: Although you may not personally miss out on anything if you opt-out of this fee, we at NCSAC depend on the funds from this fee to drive forward sustainability initiatives. The more students who opt-out of the fee, the less financial support we have to provide sustainable initiatives.
What happens if I opt-out of non-essential ancillary fees?
As mentioned above, each ancillary fee has a different opt-out repercussion. If you choose to opt-out of all NCSAC fees, you will save $39.35/semester. Although you may not understand the implications of opting-out of each fee right now before school begins, we want you to have some foresight, think about the support that we offer you throughout the your school year and get educated on each particular fee. If you would like to read more about opt-out implications for each fee, please click here. You will not be allowed to opt back in to an NCSAC ancillary fee throughout the semester, so you will be paying full price for any service and events. You will have to wait until the following semester to opt back in to each fee, so please select your fees accordingly.
Why are some fees essential and some non-essential?
Before the Student Choice Initiative, all NCSAC fees were mandatory and students did not have any choice. The current provincial government is trying to offer students a choice in what they are members of, what they are involved in and ultimately the cost of their education. The government also dictated the essential vs. non-essential categories and trusted student associations to work with their institutions to interpret the government legislation.
Based on the framework the government provided and the classification of essential/mandatory vs non-essential fees/optional fee, the essential NCSAC ancillary fees total $407.50/semester (U-Pass, Student Buildings, Health Plan and Academic Support). The non-essential portion of our NCSAC ancillary fees is $39.35/semester (Membership, Services, Social Programming, Clubs and Sustainability). These categories were defined in the legislation and interpreted with heavy consultation between your NCSAC and Niagara College Administration.
These categories were defined in the legislation and interpreted by NCSAC representatives working diligently alongside Niagara College administration since the release of the final government framework in March of 2019. We have ensured that we are interpreting the spirit of the Student Choice Initiative, giving students the choice the government wanted and also have adjusted our NCSAC business model to reflect the changing nature of our new variable funding model.
The future of NCSAC support on campus:
Your NCSAC’s mission, vision and values all point to one common goal; “to support our Niagara College students outside the classroom.” Think of us as your big sister/big brother on campus as we are here to support you, take your best interest to heart and speak up for you on a higher level when you feel you don’t have a voice.
Please understand that the Student Choice Initiative is not the end of student government and your NCSAC support on campus. It does however mean that we have had to change our business model. Instead of a “taxation system”, whereby all students are mandated to pay and services are provided usually free of charge to everyone, moving forward we have to change to a “fee-for-service” model. If you want the service we offer, you stay opted-in and we will deliver it.
We want you to make good choices (choices that are right for you)!
Remember, the choice is now yours! We are not going to tell you what you need and what is right for you; that is up to you!
Now that you are back into the mindset of going back to school. You might be thinking about whether you would like to join a club, and then September comes and you see the Nerds and Geeks, Acting, Physics or Smash Brothers Club active on campus, you may want to join in the fun. If you opt-out of the NCSAC Clubs fee, you will have to wait until the next semester.
You may have no desire to come to a pub night on campus, but when your friends have stayed opted-in to the Social Engagement fee and are going to pub night, you will either have to pay full retail price for a ticket, or not be able to enter at all.
Getting involved on campus, running for Student Government, and making a difference for students around you might be something you have always been driven to do. Maybe you want to get an on-campus NCSAC job (street team, food outlets, and events). These opportunities will not be available for students who choose to opt-out of the NCSAC Membership Fee.
Just remember, that your NCSAC is here to serve you, the students of Niagara College and support you in any way we can. We will navigate the Student Choice Initiative together, but we need you to get educated on your fees, make choices with foresight and understand that we’re here for you!
If you have any questions, concerns or comments about the Student Choice Initiative, your NCSAC ancillary fees, please feel free to email email@example.com and your 2019-2020 NCSAC President, Tom Price, would be happy to have a conversation with you!
We hope you enjoyed your summer and we cannot wait to have you back on campus,
Your Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC)