Jared Dodds, News Reporter
The end of the fall semester at Humber College brings snow, project deadlines and the stress of upcoming exams.
But for student unions around the province, including Humber’s IGNITE, the approach of winter semester also brings uncertainty.
When school comes back in session in January, students again have the choice to opt-out of ancillary fees under the Student Choice Initiative (SCI).
The directive, passed last January by the Ontario government of Premier Doug Ford, allows students to opt-out of what are considered additional fees on top of tuition.
For Humber, these Enhanced Student Experience Fees include Student Financial Support and IGNITE events and social opportunities.
A student choosing to opt into all five of the fees would pay an extra $55.95 a semester.
Eighty per cent of Humber students opted into the fees, something that pleased IGNITE President Monica Khosla.
“We really take care of our students,” Khosla said. “We really do put the time and care into knowing how they’re doing, and I think that reflects in our opt-in results.”
IGNITE has been more successful than some post-secondary institutions around the province, including Ryerson’s Continuing Education Student Association, which only had 59 per cent of students opt-in.
But IGNITE’s strong start does not guarantee continued support, a fact not lost on Khosla.
“It’s going to be difficult because of how well we did the first semester,” she said. “Some decrease is probably expected, and that in itself is frightening.”
Students have the choice to opt-in or out every semester, leaving the budgets of these unions in flux as they wait to see how many students they gain or lose.
Sofia Descalzi, the National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), said she hopes the constant uncertainty makes students see the initiative for what it is.
“I think the take-home message is that it [the SCI] was a targeted attack from the Ontario government to stifle the voices that hold it accountable,” Descalzi said. “It is incredibly important to not lose that political power for students.”
The CFS announced a legal challenge to the SCI last May, citing a lack of legal authority.
Opening statements were delivered in mid-October at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court, with hopes of a decision before the new year.
Descalzi said students must realize they have the power to influence this government, even though the election is years away.
“We need to keep organizing,” she said. “We need to keep the pressure up and keep escalating our actions to make sure that government at some point will respond to us.”
“Students have not been the only one targeted by this government,” Descalzi said. “People have reacted to that and the government has stepped back and have reinstituted what they cut.”
While the court case may be ongoing, Humber College is preparing for the reality its budget may shrink again in January.
But Jason Hunter, vice-president of Student and Community Engagement, understands a shrinking budget does not change the priority of getting students the services they need.
“I don’t think students care where they get services from,” Hunter said. “I don’t think they care whether they’re from the college, the student government or somewhere else. They just want their needs to be met.”
He said working with IGNITE to make sure these services get to students is the most important thing.
“Our objective is to together say how can we [Humber College] serve them these ways and how can you [IGNITE] serve them in other ways, and how can we make that seamless,” Hunter said. “We’re two bodies of the organization here to support student success.”