Fee cut raises doubts

Proposed ESS fee decrease still feasible, SGPS president says

SGPS President Jeff Welsh says the proposed student fee reduction for ESS students is feasible, it’s just a question of what level the cut will actually be.
SGPS President Jeff Welsh says the proposed student fee reduction for ESS students is feasible, it’s just a question of what level the cut will actually be.
Journal File Photo

On Mar. 24, The Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) will hold a referendum to decide whether or not to reduce the student fee of education students by half. President Jeff Welsh’s proposed plan is raising doubt in some who don’t believe the cuts are feasible. Welsh said he remains confident in the plan, which would have the education students pay a reduced fee of $30 compared to the Graduate and Professional Students’ fee of $60. “I think they’re [the cuts] all feasible,” said Welsh. “It’s just a question of what the actual level [of cuts] is going be.” Welsh said the student fee reduction seemed fair for education students, who are often off campus for their practicums.

“Since they are only on campus four months out of the year, it just seemed to make sense to me and the other members of the SGPS exec. Why have them pay for services they can only use half the time?” he said. “Many of them have long commutes on top of working all day and doing lesson plans or grading papers in the evenings. Even if they’re doing a practicum that’s considered ‘local,’ it doesn’t mean that they’re on campus, because they’re not.

“That being said, we of course have to negotiate with the different groups that are involved in the programs that receive the money,” Welsh said. “What we proposed was changing a number of fees, so they’re proposed cuts. In our conversations that we had with the ESS exec, we had said that those were the targets that we were going to shoot for because it seemed to make a certain amount of sense to us.

“Our internal fees, we’ve already got the process going to cut them in half, that we can do on our own. It’s our external fees that we have to negotiate on.” Welsh said if the external fees were to be decreased, the change would have to go to a vote.

“If what we’re talking about is resetting fees, it would have to go through referendum.”

Welsh said some services could suffer due to the student fee cuts, but he said he’ll do what he can to help affected services stay afloat.

“Part of the negotiation process is finding out what we can do make sure the services still operate,” he said. “Our members use these services too, that’s why we pay into them and support them, so we don’t want to see services that our members use adversely affected. But we also want to make sure that the fees the ESS students are paying are fair.” Welsh said he will meet with the groups involved to discuss the impact of the fee cuts.

“There are different parties involved with different fees,” said Welsh. “Both Athletics and Recreation and Health, Counselling and Disability are units of Student Affairs, so they’re going to be working out in their budget what the cuts would mean to the services they actually provide.

“If they can juggle things a little bit, then we might not need to do anything else, but if there is going to be a serious impact on any of the services then we will talk about the possibility of a small overall increase and then the ESS members will pay half of whatever that new rate will be.”

Welsh said another option would be to make a donation to Student Affairs, to compensate for the funding cut.

“The SGPS might be able to make a small annual donation for one of two years, to make sure that the services are still able to be offered,” he said. “Then, with rising enrolment over the next couple of years, the added money coming in might be enough to offset the costs.”

Welsh said he plans to explore similar options when attempting cuts for groups such as Walkhome, Bus-It and the Journal, fees which are controlled by the AMS. “I imagine since they run on fairly tight budgets that there will be some impact, and we’ll have to see what that impact will be, in service terms, not just in dollar terms,” he said. “Again, that might mean working out some kind of deal with the AMS to perhaps increase the overall fees for SGPS members and then cutting that by half for ESS members, or again it might mean making a contribution for two or three years. “There’s just the question of finding out what the impact would be and then figuring out what to do about,” Welsh said. “We have no desire to see the services that we think are valuable and that our members use adversely affected. It’s just a question of how the money gets in to the pot, so to speak, to pay for the services. That’s all we have to work out.

—With files from Emily Davies

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