SOLUS concerns voiced to administration

Change in tuition fee payment deadline the centre of student feedback at town hall meeting

Kieran Slobodin, ArtSci ’12
Kieran Slobodin, ArtSci ’12

At a town hall meeting held on Tuesday night, students voiced concerns about a changing tuition payment deadline coming into effect this fall.

Starting in September, Queen’s tuition fees will be due in full on Sept. 1 as opposed to Sept. 30. The minimum registration payment deadline will no longer exist, however, for students unable to make their full tuition payment on time, the University will accept a ‘commitment to pay.’ This will allow students to defer their payment to a later date.

As it stands now, OSAP and any Queen’s funding will be automatically taken into account in proving a ‘commitment to pay,’ however the incorporation of other forms of funding into this system is still undecided. For example, a student with a $6,000 tuition payment with a $2,000 OSAP loan would only have to pay $4,000 by Sept. 1.

Access to add/drop options on SOLUS will be blocked for students who fail to pay tuition by Sept. 1 or prove a ‘commitment to pay.’

Laura Staires, ArtSci ’12, said she attended the town hall because she was concerned about the change in payment deadline.

“Forcing students who can't make the Sept. 1 payment to justify [their finances] is very degrading," she said, adding that she felt there was a lack of consultation of students in the process. “I've heard generally about this process, and I wanted the chance to hear the administration respond directly to student concerns.”

University Registrar Jo-Anne Brady, AMS President Safiah Chowdhury and Academic Affairs Commissioner Kieran Slobodin responded to questions about what the change would mean for students. There were between 20 and 30 students in attendance at 5:30 p.m. in the McLaughlin room of the JDUC. It was the second town hall held in regards to this issue, the first occurring on Feb. 9 in the Bio Sciences building.

“As a student government we wanted to get feedback on [the change],” Slobodin, ArtSci ’12, said. “We were there to listen to [student] concerns. There are quite a few concerns that were raised.”

Slobodin said one issue is that it has yet to be decided if students who receive third party funding will be able to meet the requirements for a ‘commitment to pay’ deferral of payment. Third party funding would include a scholarship from a student’s high school or private foundation.

“There’s a significant grey area of students who won’t fall into the loan, bursary scholarship, aid area [who] still won’t be able to pay on the first,” he said, adding that it’s not clear if proof of employment could be used to receive a ‘commitment to pay.’ “There will be a ‘commitment to pay’ process. It’s not decided what the process will be …. We know it will be electronic but we don’t know how all encompassing it will be,” he said. Students will need to provide documentation such as proof of a loan or scholarship.

Every student can apply online for a ‘commitment to pay,’ he said, adding that the registrar can look at cases on an individual basis.

“If you go into the registrar office, exceptions can be made.”

Slobodin there is currently not a timeline in place as to when the process of ‘commitment to pay’ will be finalized.

As with the current system, international students will be able to defer half of their tuition payment until January.

Slobodin said one important distinction for students to make with the new system is that add/drop will be inaccessible for students who fail to make the Sept. 1 payment but this doesn’t mean they will be bumped out of courses.

“[You would be] frozen in the courses you selected, courses you selected back in July,” he said.

Brady said she thought the feedback provided at the town hall was useful.

“It was good to have the opportunity to listen to some students,” she said. “Chief among their concerns was lack of communication. We’ll turn our attention toward making sure students get specific information … trying to use different avenues and venues where students may seek out information.”

Concerns about financial privacy were also brought up at the town hall, Brady said.

“There were a lot of concerns that related to things other than tuition payment … accessibility, financial aid. There were concerns about privacy.”

Elamin Abdelmahmoud, ArtSci ’11, voiced concern about the general culture of dealing with students’ personal finances at Queen’s.

“Most of us in this room wouldn’t be here if we felt okay about how we’re treated … at Gordon Hall,” he said to the audience, adding that when standing in line, students are asked to broadcast matters of personal finance before being helped. “Gordon Hall is one of the most dehumanizing buildings on campus.”

Following the town hall, Abdelmahmoud said he was satisfied with the administration’s engagement.

“It went really well. I thought Jo-Anne Brady and [Associate Registrar Andrew] Ness were very receptive of the feedback they got from students,” he said. “I know that my concerns were responded to. They were not necessarily provided a solution, but they were responded to.”

Abdelmahmoud added that he thinks the administration is now aware of problems with addressing students’ financial situation at Queen’s.

“The response was they don’t see the culture that was around Gordon hall,” he said. “That’s more useful to me to know ... because actually what this does it tells us there’s so much work to do. [Jo-Ann said she’s] very receptive to hearing what specific concerns [there] are. I thought it was a positive step.”

With files from Labiba Haque and Katherine Fernandez-Blance

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