Ancillary Fees: What Are You Paying For?

When you are planning how much university costs I am sure you will include your tuition cost, and if you are not living at home and commuting, housing and food costs. You might also include a small “entertainment” budget (this is what to call it when talking to your parents), maybe some sort of transportation expense, etc. After you have added that all up you will plan out your student budget and think you are set. This is what I considered when I was heading off to first year. Then you will get your tuition invoice. You will notice a lot of things on there of which you never would have thought. These are what the school calls ancillary fees.

Ancillary Fees?

Ancillary fees are defined as “a fee that is imposed or administered by a given institution, or one of its constituent parts or its federated or affiliated institutions, in addition to regular tuition fees, which a student is required to pay in order to enrol in, or successfully complete, any credit course,” by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and University. 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.

In some cases these fees can be handy. For instance at Wilfrid Laurier a bus pass and access to the gym is paid for by these ancillary fees. I think every student uses the bus on occasion here in Waterloo and the pass in our tuition is cheaper than the equivalent pass would be if purchased directly from the transit company. And while a lot of students will never set foot in the Athletic Complex, having it paid for makes it more likely that someone who wouldn’t otherwise go will have one less thing stopping them in their mind. Plus, by charging every student a little bit it spreads the cost out, so the regulars will not be paying out the ears. It is an investment in health and I think that should always be considered a good thing.

Examples

These are the fees which popped up on my account for last year.

Administration Council Fee –Nowhere does it say exactly what this includes but it at least sounds reasonable. I am going to give the school the benefit of the doubt that this is a worthwhile fee for the price. $86.45

GRT Bus Pass – I utilized this and feel I got my money’s worth. It is $3 per bus ride if you pay individually. $106.88

Copyright Agreement Fee – This fee allows the school to reproduce copyrighted works. I am sure I have gotten use of this service without even realizing it. $9.64

Comprehensive Student Services – This includes our gym pass, student awards, counselling and career services among other things. It is part of an agreement where students pay 50% for these services and then we receive 50% of the vote in any issues. No issues that required a vote have come up but that seems like an appropriate trade-off. The cost of the trade-off still hurt a bit. $411.66

Dental Plan – It is not the best plan but I hear it is good for the price of it. You are able to opt out of this if you can prove you have alternative coverage. Luckily I have benefits from my dad’s union. $198.25

Health Plan – Same goes for above. I was lucky enough to be able to opt out but lots of students are not. I imagine that most students never use any of these benefits, which is unfortunate. If some of the cost we pay for this could go towards awareness of the programs I am sure a few students would better understand their benefits and use them accordingly. $211.22

Housing Activity Fee – This one might go towards a few of the inter-residence games and sports. Those are fun and worthwhile. But every student in residence is also required to contribute $50 to a “floor fund” which is used for fun, team building activities for your dorm floor. We used ours on a nice spaghetti dinner and sweaters at the end of the year. It would be nice if this housing activity fee could cover the floor fund as well. $24.00

Enhancement of Life Levy – The school website does not mention what this is for either. It is quite a lot though so I would hate to see what the students’ lives would be like if we didn’t pay it. $104.60

Public Interest Research Group – This is something the business school has started in the hopes of funding a research group. I think it is a good cause and all but I don’t think I personally would benefit from it. You have to really look in the fine print to find that this is in fact optional, and the opt out is simple once you learn you can do it. Unfortunately I did not know I could last year. $15.69

Pool Improvement Fee – Laurier has a pretty nice pool. It is open great hours so you can go swimming pretty late into the night. It has been a few years since the pool was actually improved but I appreciate the great pool we have so this is okay. I didn’t use the pool last year but I want to get some time in it this year. $27.50

Student Publications Fee – I guess this is for those students who have things to publish? Or maybe it is for things published for the students? No answers are provided but whatever the case I do not think everyone at the university needs to be paying this. $27.63

Sustainability Fee – We have a great group on campus in charge of recycling programs and the like. That is what this is for and I wholeheartedly agree. $13.75

Student Union Building Fee – I don’t even know where the student union building is. But I am burdened with paying for some of it. I am sure I personally bought more than a few rolls of paper towel for the bathrooms or paint for the walls or to whatever this money goes to. I guess the student union needs a building though. $74.26

Faculty Based Fee – Should be included in the cost of tuition in my opinion. Different faculties have different prices for tuition for their courses already, so why should there be an additional faculty fee? $41.25

WUSC Student Refugee Program – A cause I initially questioned but now feel bad for doing so. This program funds students from less fortunate areas of the world to come study in Canada. I just hope this money is used well. $11.00

Do Your Homework

I never counted all these costs, which ended up costing $1363.78. I was able to recoup some of that by opting out of the health and dental plans but that is a lot of pizza I planned on eating but never got to. As you can and will see some fees you will agree with, others you won’t. My suggestion is to research and look up how many of these fees of which you are able to get out. If I had looked hard I could have saved $16, but there may be more money out there for you to save.

Tyler is a student at Wilfrid Laurier University and is trying to graduate debt free even while paying so many ancillary fees. He writes at poorstudent.ca

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