University, student unions reducing fees

Exterior shot of McMaster student centre in summer

With McMaster’s fall term moving online due to COVID-19 precautions, the McMaster Students Union, Graduate Students Association and the university have worked together to reduce or eliminate several ancillary fees.

In most cases, the fee reductions mean students will not be incurring costs for services that have been paused or can no longer be delivered while the term is held virtually.

The full slate of miscellaneous fees — including any reductions, cancellations or other changes — were approved by the university’s Board of Governors last week.

One of the key changes is student transit passes, which have been put on hold for the Fall term to reflect the online semester.

Hamilton City Council agreed to temporarily suspend the student bus pass contract for the period of September through December 2020. As well, the Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) has agreed to provide a credit back to students for the lack of service between April and June of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the service reduction, undergraduate students will not be charged the scheduled bus fee of $223.92 in the fall; instead, a fee of $120.98 will appear on student accounts in January 2021, reflecting the cost of the remaining eight months of HSR service — a reduced cost of almost 45 per cent from last year.

Graduate students had lobbied to continue to have full service for the Fall term and will pay a reduced fee for their annual bus pass — a fee of $239.65 will be charged, a savings of $43.50.

Students’ associations spent considerable efforts lobbying for the change to help defray student costs.

“From working with our partners within the City of Hamilton and McMaster University, students will greatly benefit from the short-term changes to the bus pass,” said Giancarlo Da-Ré, MSU president.

“The MSU continues to advocate for discounts to the daily bus fare and monthly pass for students who may wish to purchase one exclusively for the fall.”

“The GSA is happy that after working closely with Hamilton Street Railway and McMaster University, our graduate students will pay a reduced HSR fee and receive a refund,” explained Shawn Hercules, GSA president. The GSA is also continuing to work with the HSR on refunds for the lack of service earlier in the year due to the pandemic.

Athletics and Recreation activity fees for the fall semester will also be significantly reduced, with students paying only 25 per cent of the regular fee, due primarily to campus gyms and fitness facilities remaining closed for in-person activities throughout the fall. Once Winter term decisions are made about facilities and programming, further credits or refunds will be considered if appropriate.

Athletics and Recreation continues to offer athletic programming, including fitness classes, virtually. For the full schedule of free online classes and programming, go to @McMasterPulse or @MacRecreation on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Several student societies, including the McMaster Engineering Society, Medical Students Society, the BioMedical Discovery and Commercialization Society, and the MBA Association, are reducing their fees as well.

The McMaster Students Union will reduce its organization fee by 10 per cent. The organization oee is paid annually by all full-time, undergraduate students to operate more than two dozen student services, the clubs structure, the governance apparatus and MSU advocacy work.

The MSU has also reduced ancillary fees for both the McMaster University Student Centre (MUSC) and CFMU FM 93.3, by 15 per cent each.

The GSA Capital building fee has been put on a one-year pause.

While the majority of these reductions and changes are linked to the Fall term, all parties may reconsider fee schedules again if there isn’t an on-campus experience in January.

In residence, where only a small number of rooms are to be occupied, there will be no mandatory meal plan for the fall semester, although meal plans and meal options will be available for those students in residence.

To address the economic challenges of COVID-19, students will have the option to pay tuition and other fees in interest-free instalments for the 2020-2021 academic year.

For a breakdown of fees for undergraduate and graduate students, please go to the Registrar’s Office Supplementary Fees page.