UBC student launches petition calling for partial tuition refund
VANCOUVER -- Soon after classes moved online in March, University of British Columbia student Irem Atalay realized she was paying for services on campus that she was no longer able to access.
"We're paying all the building fees and activity fees, which have all been cancelled, and all the labs," she says. "Most of these resources, if we want to get the value for it as students, we have to be physically present."
So she started a petition asking the school to provide refunds for fees or for a portion of tuition, a petition that has garnered more than 6,000 signatures so far.
Students around the world have made similar requests at their universities, with varied success. The University of Toronto is reviewing its ancillary fees, and in some cases may eliminate them.
But in a statement to CTV News Vancouver, Matthew Ramsey, a spokesperson for UBC, said tuition at the school will not be refunded or discounted.
"Tuition is vital to maintaining the academic continuity and operations of UBC and providing the supports students require now and when the university returns to normal operations," the statement said. "The university is following direction from the provincial government on matters such as tuition and student housing costs and is working to address the financial pressures faced by students at this time."
UBC has suspended the fall term's athletics fee, and the student societies are looking at what fees they can let classmates opt out of.
At Simon Fraser University, the school is also looking at some changes to what students pay, but not to tuition costs.
Jon Driver, a vice-president at the school, says moving classes online doesn't actually save the school any money.
"Somewhat ironically, under normal circumstances we charge a slightly higher fee for online courses because of the extra costs that are associated with putting that kind of course on," he says, adding online courses require more technical support staff. "For that reason, we will not be adjusting our normal tuition fees. However we will be reducing or eliminating fees for other activities."
The school currently isn't charging recreation fees, as students can't access the facilities, or charging fees for lab classes that can't take place.
Atalay, who just finished her second year at the Sauder School of Business, says she was surprised at some of the charges she saw when going through her own payment history.
"For example, if you're enrolled in Sauder School of Business, (you're) expected to pay $600 just for the building fee." That fee goes to a building she hasn't been able to set foot in since March.
Atalay is an international student, and while her tuition is higher than her domestic counterparts, she says the petition is for all students.
"I think now this is a crucial time for UBC to make a decision about the fees," Atalay says. "I really hope that they will take into account over 6,000 signatures, all these students' opinions, and I really hope that they will make a change."
Check out more of CTV News Vancouver's Class of 2020 series online, and all week on CTV Morning Live and CTV News at Six.