Student Union budgets shrink as many students opt out of fees

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TORONTO

On Jan. 17, 2019, the Government of Ontario announced the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), which provided students with the choice to opt-out of non-essential supplementary fees starting in fall 2019.
Fall has now arrived and as feared, student union budgets have shrunk on Ontario campuses by different percentages.
According to a report in a news outlet, Ryerson University’s radio station CJRU has to do with less as it deals with its fall semester budget. A whopping 56.7 per cent of full-time students opted out a fee that supports the station.
Another casualty of less funding is the station’s ability to support local musicians by doing things like hosting concerts and paying honorariums.
More than 55 per cent of undergrad students opted out of paying fees that go toward Ryerson’s campus paper, The Eyeopener. Half of the students also opted out of a fee that supports student refugees.
The Continuing Education Student Association at Ryerson has seen 41 per cent of the students it represents opting out of non-essential fees. Hardest hit is the bursary program that distributes more than $125,000 every year for needs-based grants. Student officials are still trying to figure out final numbers for the fall semester.
In the spring, the Canadian Federation of Students and York Federation of Students took the Ontario government to court over the Student Choice Initiative, which was first announced in January.
Meanwhile, other universities in Ontario fared better than Ryerson. The University of Ottawa Students Union saw about 20 per cent of undergrad students opt out of paying student life fees that go toward clubs and associations.
Meanwhile, the York Federation of Students at York University reported just 17 per cent of students opted out non-essential fees.
For the union representing graduate students, it’s 11 per cent, which students say may affect its international student bursary and Indigenous solidarity fund.
The reason why so many students may have opted out of union fees at Ryerson University may have to do with a spending scandal that was reported in January this year. The heads of the Ryerson Students’ Union were forced to explain approximately $250,000 in credit card spending, which critics say includes numerous questionable expenditures over an eight-month period.
The charges and photos of the credit card statements were first reported by The Eyeopener, Ryerson University’s student newspaper.
The credit card statement, which is addressed to student union president Ram Ganesh, included purchases at LCBO locations and a shisha lounge.

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