Surprise fee creates uproar with nursing students at the University of Saskatchewan

Earlier this month nursing students were told that they have to pay additional fees that were not collected in 2019. Unpaid fees would put holds on their education and possibly obtaining their nursing licenses. Now a petition says the error was made by the university.

Petition created by nursing student gets 5,700 signatures in support of students' not having to pay the fees

University of Sask. Nursing student Dan Stumborg started this online petition in response to the surprised fees they received by email from the Registrar's Office. "They were kind of seen as, 'Oh we forgot to charge you with these with the rest of your tuition,'" said nursing student Hanna White. (Facebook)

Hannah White was shocked when she got an email from the University of Saskatchewan telling her that she would have to pay hundreds of dollars worth of fees she did not know about. She said almost 600 other nursing students would have to pay these fees — because of a technical error made by the university. 

"I was feeling very frustrated with the college because of the timing they chose to inform us about the fees," said White.

"Students were just starting out the week of finals, were living through a pandemic and many students are already financially and emotionally burdened due to the loss of their possible part-time jobs because of COVID-19."

She said students were emailed on April 2, 2020 by the registrar's office. In that email it stated that there would be a fee adjustment for classes they took from the spring 2019 to the winter 2020 semesters. This meant this fee adjustment would impact all years.

"Student council members were informed by the Undergraduate Education Council that these oversights total more than $200,000," said White.

The fees range from $115 to $325 depending which year of study students were in. But White and fellow students say those fees should be waived. The university stated that there will be no late penalties for students who pay the fees by August but students like White disagree with that. 

"I believe that students should not be asked to accept the college's administrative errors. So I do want the college to revoke the current retroactive fees and then refrain from implementing retroactive fees in the future," said White.

"I've had several students reaching out to me saying they're really struggling financially right now. They can hardly afford to pay the rent and put food on the table for them or their families, let alone pay these extra fees."

Dan Strumborg is a nursing student as well. He created an online petition in support of waiving the fees. The goal is to get 7,000 signatures. So far 5,970 have signed the petition, including White. 

U of S says fee re-adjustment is difficult, but they are minimizing impact

The University of Saskatchewan declined an interview by CBC but issued a statement from Lois Berry. She is a professor and interim dean at the College of Nursing. 

"We understand that a fee re-adjustment message is a difficult message for our students to receive, especially during these uncertain and challenging times."

"The College of Nursing is working with the registrar's office to try and minimize the impact on our students through access to emergency funding and waiving monthly late fee penalties".

Berry said there are currently no holds on the students' accounts and they are working with the registrar's office to determine if and when they will put these holds on.

Berry added that the requirement of submitting a university transcript will be waived in order to expedite an emergency graduate license to practice upon graduation.

The petition was updated April 11 to reflect these measures by the university.

Students demand transparency 

White said the re-adjustment adds stress to students entering the workforce and also for second year students that lost their part time jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"So it's certainly caused a lot of drama within our nursing class and also just a lot of added pressure to have extra money on hand."

White said that they received an idea of what the costs they're attributing the fees to, but she expects more from the university. 

"I also asked that the college also live up to their mission statement regarding transparency and I would love to see an information breakdown on what the actual technical error was that led to these oversights."