Opting in for the better of the student body

Graphic by Serena Truong

Last week’s edition of The Cord contained an article about student fees that I found concerning. The author argued that students who feel they are not directly benefiting from services funded by their student fees should opt-out.

That is a monumentally bad idea, not just for the person opting out, but for all the other students at the school.

To explain, I want to specifically talk about two of those service fees: health & dental and the bus pass.

Both services benefit the group at large because everyone is paying a marginal fee. For the GRT Bus Pass, you are charged an $80 fee for which you get year-round bus service.

Even if you don’t use the bus service much, you still have transportation security. Your car breaks down but you still need to get across town? It’s not going to cost you a dime.

However, the real benefit is for those people that do need the bus pass. Imagine being a Laurier student living in Cambridge without access to a car. Because everyone is paying that fee, they don’t need to spend the $70 a month to buy monthly bus passes.

GRT would never in a million years offer an opt-out option for bus passes because there would be no benefit for them offering that lower price if they can’t guarantee a profit from the deal.

The same goes for the health and dental plan. Because we all pay that fee at the beginning of term, thousands of Laurier students now have access to necessary health and dental services.

The insurance company gives a highly-reduced rate on coverage because they have a guaranteed income from having almost all students buying in. If students started opting out from the health and dental plan en-masse, the rate charged would have to go up because that’s how health insurance works.

The people who need it most are subsidized by the rest of society.

But the most dangerous problem with last week’s article is that it tried to justify certain services for “contributing to the sense of community that Laurier has become known for.”

This was said at the same time as the author criticized a host of other fees because he just didn’t see them as important.

The author saw value in The Cord’s student fee, as it published his work but not in a group like LSPIRG, where he likely has never set foot in their office or utilized their resources, while other students do. This kind of justification for certain fees over others is evidence of a larger problem though — all of our eyes are off the target on tuition.

Universities in Ontario used to be publicly funded. I say “used to” because in the past few years, the province’s funding dipped below 50 per cent for the first time.

The province is no longer providing adequate funding for universities, which contributes to the continual rise in tuition. If the province increased university funding, they would have more power in keeping tuition costs down.

If you don’t like how expensive tuition has become, blame the province, not the marginal student fees. Those are just easy targets for cowardly criticism and they keep our eyes off of the real problem.

All of the fees we pay as part of our tuition do something for us and all of them provide access for all students to services, groups and funding that we can use to change our environment and our university experience.

Critiquing those fees rather than the larger problem of university funding lets the government off the hook as we squabble.

We do have a better solution to these issues: it’s called voting and protest. But that would require getting out of our comfort zones.

Are you up to the challenge?

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