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Jason Herring wrote this piece about his frustration with the extra costs he's seeing  for his university education.

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I pride myself on being a thrifty university student. When I pay my thousands of dollars worth of tuition, I triple-check to make sure I've opted-out of any fees that aren't mandatory.

I don't buy textbooks unless they're absolutely necessary. If I have to buy one, I find it cheap on Kijiji and hope to make some of the money back by selling it at the end of the semester. I even take full advantage of Subway's gift card promotion to get the most expensive sandwiches on the menu for free.

Fed up with extra costs attached to complete assignments 

Because I put a lot of effort into saving money at university, it's frustrating when I'm faced with something I have little choice but to buy at full price, which is something I encountered this fall semester when I tried to complete my first Economics 201 assignment. Assignments for the course are viewed and completed through Nelson Education's Mindtap website. Access to this website is available for a cool $99.95.

Here's how it works. If you buy a new textbook, it comes with a code that grants you access to Mindtap for the semester. If you don't want to buy a textbook, you have to purchase standalone access to the course. That's the cheaper option, but not by much. You can't buy a used textbook because there's no code for the website.

Once you're on the site, you can browse through an online textbook and complete assignments and practice questions. It's a useful site, but it's frustrating that you need to pay to use it.

To clarify, I'm not explicitly forced to buy access to the site. My classes offer an option for me to use a limited version for free at computers in the Taylor Family Digital Library or the Arts Computer Lab on the University of Calgary campus. But the limited hours and limited availability of computers in these labs make working there difficult and unreliable. My daily commute from Calgary's deep southeast is also long enough that it isn't feasible for me to finish all my assignments at school.

Tuition fees should cover class assignments

I pay my tuition and my mandatory fees. And I think paying my tuition should give me the ability to complete the class I'm taking without additional costs.

I believe that classes should never require a payment beyond pre-established tuition for the completion of marked coursework. - Jason Herring, U of C student

My assignments for the class are worth 20 per cent of my grade, and I don't think I should be pressured to pay more in order to get those marks. I believe that classes should never require a payment beyond pre-established tuition for the completion of marked coursework.

This is not the first time I have faced extra costs to complete course work. During my first year, I spoke with one professor about having to pay for access, but I got a dismissive answer expressing surprise that I had questioned it. I can understand why professors like the system — marking of assignments and homework is automatic, saving them time and effort.

Lessons learned  — so to speak

I guess this situation demonstrates some of the lessons I'm being taught in my microeconomics class — that a monopoly has free reign to do what it wants. I've decided I value my time and convenience more than I oppose the price for Mindtap, so I bought access to the website.

Capitalism thrives, even on campus.

(A version of this piece was first published in The Gauntlet)

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