The Student Choice Initiative, explained

Ontario government releases guidelines for new policy to begin Sept. 2019

Changes to OSAP and tuition fees were implemented by the Ford government in January.
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Journal File Photo

When Premier Doug Ford’s government announced the establishment of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) on Jan.17, questions abounded.

Nearly three months later and after structural changes to the AMS and its services, the SCI is beginning to take shape across the province.

On March 29, the Ontario Government released a 25-page document outlining a direction for universities on how to implement the 10 per cent tuition reduction in the 2019-20 academic year, as well as the tuition fee freeze in 2020-21.

The 10 per cent reduction will not apply to “most international students,” as well as those who are in “full cost recovery programs”—a type of program in which all funding is received through tuition.

As well, the 2020-21 tuition freeze means students will pay the same tuition that year as they did in 2019-20. The document was unclear in stating whether this applies to international students, or whether it will stay in effect in the years following.

Per the guidelines, any incidental fees charged to support clubs, student societies, and programs that are not included in the provincial framework for compulsory fees will have an opt-out option for all students.

Fees that have been established as “essential” are up to the university’s discretion, but must fall under the government’s framework.

The university can propose to make a fee essential by making a formal proposal to the government.

Institutions looking to do so must respond with a full explanation to concerns made by student governing bodies. According to the Ontario government’s framework, essential services and fees are: athletics and recreation, career services, student buildings, health and counselling, academic support, student ID cards, student achievement and records, financial aid offices, and campus safety programs.

In addition, health and dental plans can be charged on a compulsory basis, but the university must allow students to opt-out if they possess pre-existing coverage.

Student transit passes will be implemented on an opt-out basis unless the university has a compulsory ancillary fee that was established prior to Jan. 17. If an agreement had been established prior to then, the fee will remain compulsory until the end of the contract term.

Various student services under the AMS—including The Journal—will not be subject to the essential fee framework.

Further, fees will be itemized when students are given to opt-out of their fees prior to the start of the year. It’s also mandatory for universities to submit an ancillary fee protocol that governs creating or increasing fees.

The impact of the SCI is currently taking shape in student government.

Numerous campus services such as AMS Pub Services and Common Ground will be reducing their number of managers. Within the Commission on External Advocacy, cuts have been made to the Boys and Girls club of Kingston, the Breakfast Club, the United Way Committee, the Kaleidoscope Club, and the Provincial Advocacy Committee.

As well, The Journal and Queen’s Model Parliament are currently under probation.

Liam Tharp, AMS Vice-President of Operations, told The Journal that the AMS “will engage with Queen's students directly to inform the decisions that will shape campus life for years to come.”

He added the society is collaborating with other universities to inform their practices as they continue to reconfigure.

“As we enter this period of transition, we will keep working with our partners in the University to ensure that students can continue benefiting from the essential services they rely on and the opportunities they love,” Tharp said.

“Our top priority is to ensure that the student experience at Queen's remains world-class.”

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