Late fees are an unfair burden on poorest students
Tuition fees are under the microscope across the country. As student debt skyrockets, It’s ancillary fees?the fine print, the cream, the ambiguous charges?that are causing a stir too, and for good reason.
But as a recent Macleans.ca story pointed out, there’s one kind of extra fee that student groups have yet to attack.
According to the article, universities across Canada are charging as much as 26.82 per cent?an interest rate higher than the sketchiest student credit card?on late tuition payments.
Macleans says Memorial University of Newfoundland’s interest rate is much lower at 6.75 per cent, but the 2008-2009 University Calendar says It’s up to the director of financial and administrative services to assess what penalty you pay, up to $75.
It should also be noted that Memorial might be making money off of collecting these late fees, as the rate is a solid two per cent above the prime interest rate.
The penalties are more than just a pain in the ass?75 bucks means kind of a lot. It’s a hardcover textbook, and It’s a good Saturday night.
Importantly, these late fees make the daily grind just a little bit more challenging for the most financially vulnerable students. It’s reasonable to assume that the majority who haven’t paid by the first day of classes are doing so because they don’t have the cash yet.
Perhaps they are paying off their tuition in instalments. They may be part-time students, purposefully avoiding getting student loans and working to pay their way.
Whatever the reason, the situation shouldn’t be a source of financial gain for any university, but for most it is.
The student movement already has its hands full. Since 2001, tuition fees at the University of Toronto have increased by 16 per cent and international student tuition has almost doubled in that time.
Students’ unions across Canada are also pressuring administrators to make campuses environmentally sustainable, and dissent is widespread on some campuses as administrators flirt with implementing codes of non-academic conduct that might threaten free speech.
Because of these huge problems, It’s easy to see why attention hasn’t been paid to every little thing universities are doing to perpetuate student poverty in progress, but the irony is that the abolition of problems like these petty late fees is perhaps a realizable, short-term goal for students’ unions.