Why do fee levies matter?

Here’s how fee levy groups are enhancing your recreational student life at Concordia

Graphic Joey Bruce

Student groups at Concordia University are an essential part of what makes the institution a staple for inclusivity and overall representation in Canada.

One thing to keep in mind when considering the functionality of student groups is their funding process. If you’ve studied at the university for a while now, you may have heard or seen the term fee levy thrown about in class, or in school-related advertisements by student groups. For those of you who are new, you may not even be aware of the importance or differences between fee levy and non-fee levy groups. 

The Student Accounts Fee Levy Operating Procedures defines the term fee levy as “a per credit, per semester or annual fee, collected by the university on behalf of a student organization, as defined by and in accordance with the Policy on Student Associations and Groups.” With some simple math, the monetary amount can easily be tallied up.

A course is typically worth three credits, and student fee levy groups each hold their own charge depending on what their budget requires. For instance, The Link is a fee levy group, and students who opt to pay the fee are currently paying $0.19 per credit, meaning $0.57 per course. By this account, a full-time student who is doing five courses is paying a total of $2.85 every semester to the organization.

But there’s more to fee levies than just the money. According to Eduardo Malorni, general coordinator for the Concordia Student Union, the key differences between student fee levy and non-fee levy groups has to do with accountability to higher organizations within Concordia. 

“Being a fee levy group at Concordia is a privilege we take seriously, and our commitment to our role as part of Concordia’s vibrant student body is evident.” — Angelica Calcagnile

While some student groups receive funding through a higher organization after appealing to the former with a budget, such as the CSU or ASFA, others are expected to self-govern. 

“Non-fee levy student groups [...] must apply every year to a higher organization with a budget to be approved, and will remain accountable to that higher organization,” said Malorni. “That higher organization can reject or approve their request for funding, and if they are not functioning a certain year, the higher organization does not need to give them any funding.” In short, non-fee levy student groups rely on student associations or unions to continue operations.

On the other hand, fee levy student groups are self-governing independent organizations with no affiliation to a higher body.

“Being a fee levy group at Concordia is a privilege we take seriously, and our commitment to our role as part of Concordia’s vibrant student body is evident,” said Angelica Calcagnile, president of the Concordia Student Broadcasting Corporation. The CSBC oversees the governance of Concordia’s “one and only radio station”, CJLO, and holds their broadcasting license.

“We’re grateful for the continued support of Concordia’s students, both undergraduate and graduate, and remain dedicated to providing students with an independent voice that is always innovating and evolving with the needs of our community,” Calcagnile added.

Examples of fee levy groups at Concordia include the Centre for Gender Advocacy, the Concordia Community Solidarity Cooperative Bookstore, the Art Matters festival, CJLO, Queer Concordia, CUTV, the Concordia Greenhouse, People’s Potato; and The Link, as well as many other student groups.

Another aspect to consider are the advantages and disadvantages of being a fee levy group.

Of course, advantages of being a fee levy group include secure and stable funding, as well as the ability to function independently. The disadvantages, however, lie mostly within self-organization and management of these groups, according to Malorni.

“Fee levies are expected to register with the government, hold annual general meetings to remain accountable to their membership, open their own bank accounts, internally manage their own employees and complaints, [and] handle their opt outs,” said Malorni. “Being a fee levy is a large responsibility and one which requires a dedicated team to manage.” 

At times, you may have heard of fee levy groups campaigning for a budget increase. In order for such a thing to take place, there is a criteria that students must follow. 

Through a referendum process, organizers of a fee levy group must present a question or proposal that would adequately explain why they need to increase funding. This process takes place in front of the university’s Board of Governors, who make the final decision of whether an increase of funds is necessary. The process as a whole is quite lengthy, and can take up to several weeks.

“Fee levies offer a lot of great services and resources to students,” said Hannah Jamet-Lange, academic and advocacy coordinator for the CSU. Like Malorni, they concur with the effectiveness of fee levies.

“Since students pay for those services, unless they decide to opt out, it is important for them to know about them,” Jamet-Lange added. “A lot of things that greatly improve student life would not exist if it weren’t for fee levies.

In short, fee levy groups give access to resources that are meant to enrich the experiences of students at Concordia, which is why they require funding. The funding helps students get access to equipment, programs and resources that would otherwise be costly and unaffordable. Thus, when paying fee levy charges, you are directly contributing to the expansion of on and off-campus student life activities. 

This article originally appeared in The Reorientation Issue, published September 7, 2021.