Various Manitoba post-secondary student fees in limbo with facilities shut down

It's far from consistent across Winnipeg's post secondary institutions when it comes to fees as courses shift online. File / Global News

As classes at Manitoba post-secondary institutions shift online, and most facilities such as gyms and labs remain closed for the foreseeable future, some students are wondering if they’re still on the hook for all the same fees.

“Our program, three days out of the week we’re in the lab hands-on, so to not have that is tough, but our teachers have just done an amazing job to transition everything to online,” says Dale DeMarco, a second-year medical lab sciences student at Red River College.

“It’s just the fees that I feel like aren’t being provided, shouldn’t have to be paid for.”

Specifically, DeMarco says he’s being asked to pay $333 for materials, $69 for his lab, and $21 for “rec”.

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“For myself personally, it’s not so much about the numbers or the money, it’s more the principle of the thing.”

In an email response to Global News, a Red River College spokesperson says administrators are currently reviewing — program by program — what fees are being charged and whether or not they’re appropriate.

“We are currently looking at student fees, as many of them are program-specific, to determine if they are appropriate to support learning in an alternate delivery format, or if they need to be refunded,” the email reads in part.

“Areas where the College has already made changes to student fees include parking and our recreation fees, and we will continue to review these fees.”

On-campus classes at Red River College are currently suspended until at least the fall.

President of the Red River College Students’ Association, Yash Chopra, says many students have told him they’ve already received cheques refunding them for parking payments, however some concerns remain.

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“Students are definitely concerned about their practicum,” Chopra says.

“We have forwarded students’ concerns to Red River College and what these students are looking for, whether it’s recreation fees, athletic fees, or parking fees. I think something will be communicated soon.”

Meanwhile, the University of Winnipeg says it is waiving its fitness centre fee and offering pro-rated refunds on its housing and meal plans for those who left earlier than expected.

However, it’s also adding a new set of fees for the courses which have shifted online.

“Some students have been wary about that; they’re like, ‘if you’re moving classes online, wouldn’t that mean that’s the cheaper option?’ Not necessarily,” says Jibril Hussein, president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association.

“Due to the amount of technology we’ve put into it, the amount of resources being put into offering those courses, it’s not necessarily cheaper and they are spending more money.”

Indeed, the university’s website says the online fee amounts to $60 for a three-credit-hour course and $120 for a six-credit-hour course, but these have been waived for all spring and summer 2020 courses.

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Hussein adds it’s unclear what’s happening with fees associated with lab work.

“I know they’re offering the courses online, just the lecture itself. In terms of the lab portion, what they’re saying to students is: in order to get the remainder of the credit, you would need to take the lab in the future,” Hussein says.

The university’s website goes on to say other fees — such as student registration, information technology and student services fees — are still being collected, and will be diverted to supporting the online deliver of services.

At the University of Manitoba, it’s still unclear what fees, if any, may be rescinded due to courses shifting online.

“We have not announced anything regarding fees for the fall term,” a spokesperson told Global News in an email response.

“For summer term 2020, however, recreational and parking fees were waived.”

They add administrators will be reviewing what fees are charged over the summer, but there’s been no word on when they’ll make an announcement.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba post-secondary courses shift to online, but is it the same?'
Manitoba post-secondary courses shift to online, but is it the same?

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