Attending post-secondary school in Canada is not free. To address this issue, schools charge various fees for students to attend their school. These fees are charged by educational institutions to assist with funding of staff and faculty, course offerings, lab equipment, computer systems, libraries, facility upkeep, and to provide a comfortable student learning experience.
These fees are specifically to pay for the cost of academic study. Tuition fees can be charged on a per-course basis, a per-semester basis, or a per-year basis. Tuition fees vary by school, and can reflect the popularity of a certain program or the school’s reputation. Some specialized programs such as business, medical school, law, or architecture have higher tuition fees associated with them. International students also pay a differential fee to attend Canadian schools. See the article international students for more information on differential fees. In addition to tuition fees varying amongst specific schools, they also vary in general by province.
Student activity fees
Student activity fees are charged to students that are above and beyond the normal tuition fees. These may be charged for general student activities, for supporting student media (eg. campus newspaper or radio station) and other student organizations (societies), and for intramural sports. Essentially, all the activities that are considered “free” to students are actually paid for via student fees.
Student activity fees are also used to fund campus groups and programs, and to pay for the general upkeep and daily running of these groups. Theses fees are allocated to organizations and designated to fund events by the school’s governing body (eg. student government, student union, student association).
Transit pass fee
Some schools have an agreement with the local community’s public transit system, whereby full-time students get a “free” transit pass for the duration of their studies. This pass is usually heavily subsidized and affords the student a great way to get to and from campus without relying on a motorized vehicle and paying for parking.
This option is usually in place in major cities with a substantial transit system, and is uncommon in northern or remote locations. The subsidized transit pass fee is usually ~$200 for the academic year (8 months). Full-time students are usually automatically charged for this fee (whether they will use the transit pass or not), and can only opt-out if their student status changes (eg. to part-time) or they can demonstrate a need to not have one (eg. they live on campus already). For summer sessions a prorated transit pass fee is assessed for students taking full-time classes.
Health and dental insurance fees
Health insurance fees are generally charged to all students; students who wish to opt out (because they have alternative coverage elsewhere) must usually do so before a fixed deadline (usually within the first month of each semester) in order to get a refund. However, this fee is probably the most-appreciated fee of the additional students fees. This fee pays for reduced prices (or free) on pharmacy items (including various medications), routine dental services such as cleanings, and routine eye exams. The health and dental insurance fee usually ranges from $200-$400 per year.
Medical insurance fee
International students are required to apply for medical insurance while in Canada. This fee is separate from the health and dental insurance described above, and is intended to provide for medical care (hospital visits, ambulances, etc.) if the need arises.
Most schools will offer International Student Health Plans, and automatically include students when they register. These health plans can be expensive, and cost between $200 and $700 per year. If an international student has comparable coverage in their home country, or has opted to get coverage elsewhere, they are usually able to opt-out of the school’s coverage, with sufficient proof of alternative coverage.
>Residence, meal plan, and parking fees
Unless living in residence is a requirement of attendance at the school (and for some schools, such as many private ones, it is), the payment of residence fees is not mandatory.
Usually, a deposit is required to secure your residence spot, since residence space is limited and there are usually more students desiring residence housing than there are spaces available. This deposit can range from $50 to $500, and is applicable towards the eventual residence fee for the year.
Mean plan fees can be included in some residence fees; in other places they are optional and students can opt-in or opt-out (it varies amongst schools and residences). Payment of meal plan fees gets the student a swipe card that they use when buying meals on campus, and can be reloaded when empty.
Parking fees are usually not mandatory, and in fact there is usually a lottery for available parking spaces.
Co-operative education fee
If the student has chosen to take co-operative education during their undergraduate degree, there is a co-op fee. This fee can be included in the tuition fee, or a separate fee. It can range from $200 to $1100. See the article “co-operative education” for more information on this fee.
Payment of fees
Students have many ways to pay their student fees. Some students’ parents have money saved up for their student’s post-secondary education. Other students must come up with the money themselves. The most common way is to hold a part- (or full-) time job while attending school. This allows the student to have a steady income while at the same time pursuing studies.
Other sources of money include Canada Student Loans, grants, scholarships, and bursaries. See the article “financial aid” for more information on these sources of educational money.
Most schools require tuition and student fees to be paid on a semester basis rather than annually. This is to spread out the financial burden on students by not making students pay for the entire year up-front. It also reduces the amount of refunds since students may not know their desired course-load for the entire year, and will have a better idea after the 1st semester. Many schools have moved to credit- or debit-card only for fee payments (and encourage on-line payment), to reduce the amount of cash handling and line-ups at the beginnings of semesters.