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In the wake of the Student Choice Initiative As the school year gets into full swing, clubs are preparing for the financial impacts of the Student Choice Initiative

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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

The Government of Ontario’s Student Choice Initiative was announced on Jan. 17, 2019. It called into question the tuition and ancillary fee guidelines that many students across the province had grown accustomed to.

The SCI is part of the Government of Ontario’s plan to make postsecondary education more affordable in Ontario. The new framework has already attracted much attention due to its changes to tuition and OSAP support. This year, the SCI will also allow students to opt-out of ancillary fees that have been deemed non-essential by the Government, which includes fees allocated towards clubs and student organizations.

The McMaster Students Union has created a webpage that advocates for students to support the non-essential fees and explains the impact the SCI may have on student life. The MSU represents over 20, 000 full-time undergraduate students and over 30 student-oriented services. Typically, money collected through the MSU fee that students pay as a part of their tuition is distributed amongst various student services on an annual basis.

According to the webpage, the MSU will change to a pay-per-service model in the coming year. Many services that were previously guaranteed will now be subject to optional funding. The list of optional services includes the Child Care Centre, Campus Events, Mac Farmstand, The Silhouette, CFMU and emergency student grants. In addition, all student clubs will be at risk of losing all or a significant portion of their funds. 

“The MSU has consistently been our biggest source of funding, and for that, we are very grateful, but that also means we will likely lose a significant portion of our funding under the new opt-out policy,” said Edward Cui, co-president of the McMaster Dragon Boat Club.  

One of the primary concerns for many presidents, executives, and general members is that decreasing financial support will reduce the accessibility of club activities. 

“I’m sure other athletic organizations at McMaster would agree: sports are not cheap. Yet they are so integral to the health and wellness of our student community,” said Cui. “The team fees of McMaster Dragon Boat have been historically lower than the dragon boat teams of neighboring schools, but there have still been instances where the financial burden becomes a barrier to student participation.” 

Katie O’Donnell and Sara Elgadi, co-presidents of the McMaster Classics Club, are worried that without financial support from the MSU fee, they will be unable to afford the larger events that they have offered in years past. They recognize that they will likely no longer be able to execute high quality events, which makes them fear that students will lose interest in Classics. For them, this idea is upsetting because everything they do is for the benefit of students, and to lose their support would be detrimental to their club.

The MSU promises that all of its services will continue to operate this year. However, everyone is already planning measures to face future years of reduced financial support. Elgadi and O’Donnell are already working on fundraising opportunities such as T-shirt sales, book sales and bake sales. Some clubs are turning to external support from the community. Cui and his team have been reaching out to various community partners for potential sponsorship opportunities. He sees a bright side to all of this, noting that regardless of how their budget turns out this year, this is a good chance for the club to establish long-term relationships with local businesses and increase their reach for years to come. 

Currently, MSU club members fear that students are not aware of exactly how club budgets will be impacted by SCI. They believe that McMaster clubs are an integral component to student life on campus. 

“While we understand the decision to opt-out, we would like to remind students that the fee is very minimal and helps support our clubs which aim to give you a better university experience,” said Elgadi and O’Donnell, “Opting out doesn’t take [money] away from McMaster itself, but rather, it takes opportunities away from you as students to network, make friends and receive guidance.”

Despite the possible changes and challenges that MSU clubs may face, a strong sense of optimism remains for the school year. 

“To McMaster students: this policy change may seem to put a damper on your plans for the year,” said Cui, “but don’t let it stop you from exploring your passions and interests on campus.” 

McMaster students will be able to opt-out of non-essential fees through an online process available on Mosaic from Sept. 12 – 20, 2019 on Mosaic.

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Author: Shamir Malik

Shamir is in his third year of the Bachelors or Health Science program. In his spare time he likes browsing through Netflix, writing poetry and taking naps.