Graduate students should expect a $2.50 increase to their administrative fees. </p>
The Graduate Student Association’s (GSA) fee will be increasing by $2 from $18.50 to $20.50 It was approved at the GSA’s general meeting Sept. 24.
According to the meeting agenda, this fee increase comes from the recommendation of the GSA board, based on careful consideration of the current services and future goals of the organization. In addition, the GSA administered fee increased for the Graduate House fee component, from $17.50 to $18, and the fee will increase by $0.50 per term. Both increases are effective winter 2016. The Graduate House fee is refundable during the first three weeks of the term.
The GSA is a student-run, non-profit organization, which provides a variety of services to graduate students and represents graduate student interests to different levels of university administration. GSA also represents UW graduate students at various organizations such as the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Ontario Graduate Students Alliance. Services provided by GSA include student advocacy projects, departmental support, administration of health and dental plans, and hosting many events over the course of the year. In 2014-2015, the GSA collected $275,120 in revenue through its association fee. Additional income comes from Graduate House profit, which is hard to predict, and the GSA strives to be able to support all services through its direct student fee.
Maya D’Alessio, the president of GSA, said that the fee increase was mostly a catch-up, because in the past, while the scope of their operations increased, the fee did not increase at all — not even to keep up with inflation. Therefore, it squeezed the budget and limited the amount of services that could be provided.
For instance, in comparison to Feds, which has four full-time executives, D’Alessio said that up until recently, GSA executives were only working five to 10 hours a week. The limited working hours make it difficult to be present at all the meetings because “our students didn’t have the time, but we [the GSA executives] are in positions that account for that.” GSA has also dedicated more time to student advocacy projects. According to D’Alessio, if graduate students have any problems academically with their supervisors or workmates, GSA staff members are willing to meet with the students and help them.
With the increasing work demand and service expansion, the annual fee increase of 10 per cent + CPI was approved at the 2013 annual general meeting. As a result, the fee was increased in both 2013 and 2014 as well. Although the fee increase serves as a catch-up to the financial situation, GSA’s board is currently working on a more developed long-term strategic plan, which will give more guidance to significant expansion of services.
When asked whether there were any voices against the proposal, D’Alessio said that most of the discussions were questions towards the specifics of the association, and no significant negative feedback was received. Although she understood that students never want a fee increase, “people who wouldn’t want the fee to increase don’t see the value of the GSA. Then we need to do a better job to give them value or to let them see the value that we think exists,” said D’Alessio.