Over the past few weeks, the McMaster Engineering Society has received communication from a number of concerned students to inquire about the status of tuition fees for the upcoming Fall 2020 term. Given the unprecedented changes being made to instruction in a number of engineering, IBEHS, computer science, and technology courses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, these students have understandably expressed concern that they will be paying full price for classes offered with fewer resources. To those students and to anyone who shares their apprehension, the MES would like to assure you that we have heard your voices and sympathize with your worries. In previous years, we all felt certain in the belief that our tuition supported the enriching, world-class education in engineering and technology that McMaster uniquely provides. It is not unreasonable to fear that the transition to almost purely virtual learning this Fall might result in a reduction in the quality of our education, and to feel that our tuition should reflect this change. With that in mind, we'd like to take a moment to update you on how the MES has handled your concerns, and how we, the Faculty of Engineering, and the University as a whole have chosen to address them.
Please know that the MES stands with you in favour of reducing tuition fees. As elected representatives of our peers, we agree that the student experience of an online semester will pale in comparison to the traditional, in-person experience we’ve become accustomed to. We acknowledge that online learning is not for everyone and poses a differing set of challenges for each of our students and our programs. We understand that engineering, computer science, iBioMed, and B.Tech are disciplines grounded in hands-on learning experiences that cannot be recreated through a series of videos. Most importantly, we understand that tuition is not just about our education but rather our membership to the McMaster community and all that regularly comes along with it. Without access to essential components of our undergraduate student experience, charging tuition in full undoubtedly seems illogical, especially given the financial challenges that COVID-19 has imposed upon our students and communities.
In response to the concerns of the student community, the MES has been working with the faculty to explore the topic of tuition. We have made a particular effort to advocate for tuition reduction in the context of social and experiential changes to the student experience, from lab work to extracurricular activities. The faculty has acknowledged the concerns of the students and understands the hardship of the circumstances created by COVID-19. Over the past months, every program and department has been hard at work to mitigate the challenges associated with a fully online education, details of which can be found in our academic updates section of the MES website. It is important to note that while there are many reasons for and against the reduction of tuition, stemming from a variety of perspectives, tuition is a motion to be politicized at the level of the central university. According to the MSU, the motion to maintain tuition for the 2020-2021 school year has, unfortunately, already passed. As such, tuition costs will remain as planned for the upcoming year.
We understand that this may be difficult and disappointing news for you. As students ourselves, we share your concerns and acknowledge that this decision was not in the best interest of student stakeholders. Although tuition will be charged in full this coming fall, the MES, in addition to our other faculty societies and the MSU, are exploring alternative options to alleviate some of the financial burdens posed on our students. This will include reduced ancillary and extracurricular fees wherever possible. Despite our reduced operating budgets and our distanced learning in the fall, the MES and the MSU remain operational and committed to student support when we all return to school this September.
On our part, we will be reducing our MES fee by 15% for the upcoming school year. We arrived at this decision through consideration of the events and services that the MES would still be able to provide in an online term and those that it would have to find alternatives for. Popular events such as pub nights, in-person conferences, intramural sports, and many others will all be unable to be run, and as a result we wouldn’t want to charge you for them. In addition, due to the multiple major events cancelled throughout the Winter 2020 term, the surplus money we carried over from last year also contributed to making this decision to cut back our fee. Given the uncertainty of future events and University policies, the MES will be using any additional surplus by allocating money to long-term funds related to the improvement, development, and support of current equipment, students spaces, and initiatives.
Should the COVID-19 school closure persist longer than we imagined (or another cause for tuition reduction present itself), rest assured that the MES will be more prepared to proactively address these issues and advocate on your behalf. If there is a way that we may better support your studies in the fall, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Executive Team, McMaster Engineering Society