Part-time MBAs upset with GSA fees

At their annual general meeting (AGM) last March, graduate students voted in a referendum to make part-time students full graduate students’ assocation (GSA) members.

Previously they were included as part of the GSA but did not have to pay all of the same fees due to their limited membership.

“[There were] full voting privileges for all full and part-time students at the meeting,” said office and services administrator Ellen Menage.

“We had advanced e-mail voting available….It was sent out to everyone, just so that if they could not attend the annual general meeting they could still send in their vote.”

Advanced voting was offered through e-mail, lasting for four days before the meeting. The GSA communicated through multiple e-mails using Laurier student accounts about the referendum and its results.

Unfortunately many students were left unaware of the changes in their memberships.

“I felt really frustrated. First of all I wasn’t notified, I found out through word of mouth. I think they could have put more effort into letting us know,” said part-time MBA student Gilles Ethier.

“They could have included a letter when we got the invoice or something like that.”

Despite the option to opt out of some of the fees, such as the health and dental plans– many part-timers already have coverage through work – the students felt that there was little notice of when or how to opt out.

The online system students used to opt out of these two fees proved to be confusing and difficult to navigate.

“The problem is that it is equivalent of negative option billing, because you have to opt out instead of the other way, which is opting in. If they were making people opt in we wouldn’t have a problem with it,” said part-time MBA student Jordan Blum.

Students who weren’t aware that they were being charged these new fees, or who were unsure about how to opt out, either missed the deadline or grew frustrated trying to use the online system set-up, explained Ethier.

“Ideally what we want is reimbursement for what we paid and to not have to pay it anymore. I mean, it’s one thing for new students coming on board to have to pay a certain set of fees, but we’ve been paying part-time fees for two and a half years already and all of a sudden they’re adding new fees,” said Blum about the new fees.

As several part-time students explained, their frustration has stemmed from the feeling that while having to pay GSA fees, they do not receive anything beneficial out of the association.

“The GSA services that they talk about, like the Grad Lounge, it closes at what, 7….That’s no value to us,” said Blum.

Although the Grad Lounge is accessible with a OneCard for all graduate students 24 hours a day to use as a group or quiet study place, the bar only serves late, when most part-time students are on campus, on Thursday nights, closing early the rest of the week.

Many part-time students also seem unaware of the bursaries that are available to them, although as Menage explains, part-time graduate students can apply to all but one.

She also points out that all bursaries are listed on the GSA web site and multiple email reminders of the Jan. 31 deadline have been sent out to all students.

Part-time MBA students based in Toronto who are taking courses through Laurier but are not WLU students are not subject to the same fees, as they are not on campus and do not pay for the services that are available here.

“Anyone who is paying tuition as a Waterloo-based student is paying our fee. There are a number of MBA students … just part-time, in Toronto, that are paying on a separate pay scale.

“They are paying as a Toronto based student and we don’t collect fees from them; they are their own separate entity,” said Menage.