University of Alberta increases accountability and transparency of Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees with fee restructuring and creation of oversight committeeNews Staff - Tue Mar 22, 2016
Last week, the University of Alberta Board of Governors approved a motion to restructure the existing Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees (MNIFs). As part of that restructuring, the university has agreed to create an oversight committee that will allow students to provide input on fees and the services they fund while ensuring greater transparency and accountability in how fees are set.
In 2010, the University of Alberta introduced a new MNIF initially titled the Common Student Space, Sustainability and Security Fee, proposed at a cost of $570/year per student. This fee would have covered $20 million of a $59 million budget gap and was intended to fund a range of non-instructional services for students. “The Students’ Union protested the fee, because we feel students should not be paying extra for security. There needs to be accountability in the fees we’re charged above and beyond tuition,” says Navneet Khinda, current SU President.
After initial conversations, the fee was reduced and renamed the Common Student Space, Sustainability and Services (CoSSS) Fee. Currently the fee sits at $306.16/year per full time student. The University of Alberta also charges other MNIFs, totalling $791 a year in addition to tuition costs. The Students’ Union has advocated for the elimination of the CoSSS fee and for increased transparency and accountability in the creation of new MNIFs. “We’ve had grievances with the process used to implement MNIFs and the actual fees since day one. We have no idea where millions of dollars in student money were going and every year, the reporting on it was insufficient,” says Khinda.
Under the new agreement, the CoSSS fee, the Health Services Fee, the Registration and Transcript Fee, and the Student Services Fee will be eliminated and restructured into two fees: the Student Health and Wellness Fee, and the Student Academic Support Fee. The Athletics and Recreation fee will not be affected. The restructuring is revenue neutral, with annual fees of $791.00 in 2016-17 per full time student, roughly $30 million total. While the amount of fees is not being reduced, the new structure means that the services being supported by MNIFs are clearly defined and students can understand where their dollars are going. “This is a positive change, because now we can discuss whether or not we think our money is being spent well or how we can allocate it differently, which is more productive than just continually asking where our money is going,” says Khinda.
This new Oversight Committee will replace the current MNIF Budget Advisory Committee (M-BAC). Chaired by the Deputy Provost, the joint student/University Oversight Committee will have six representatives from both the SU and the GSA, six representatives from administration, and one representative from the University Senate. Any increases above inflation, as well as the creation of any new MNIFs, will require a majority vote of the oversight committee before proceeding to the Board of Governors. Over the next year the Oversight Committee will determine the reporting structure for the various units funded by these fees.
“This structure will allow for real consultation to happen, since students will get a vote on this committee and there is an enshrined role for referenda regarding the creation of new fees,” Khinda says. “While we will continue asking the provincial government for more robust definitions and regulations on all the fees our schools charge, this is a good step forward.”
View the documents relating to the fee changes here.
The SU is the official body that represents the nearly 30,000 undergraduate students at the University of Alberta. It acts as a strong advocate for students both on campus and at all levels of government.
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