Students at VIU had a much shorter window to pay their tuition fees this semester. An online notifying system implemented by the institution has cut the previous fee payment deadline by two weeks.

VIU Registrar Fred Jacklin says the changes were made to simplify the system for students and assures that the amount of fees has remained static. He explains that the earlier deadline is due partly to advancements in communication.

“The reason there was a two week period was because we used to prepare bills and we felt that it was reasonable to allow time for students to receive them, make their arrangements, and makes their payments,” Jacklin says. “Because of online services, fees are well known at the minute they’re calculated. There is no mystery there and there is no need for students to wait to get the bill.”

Jacklin explains that the “simpler deadline” is intended to help students instead of hinder them. He says that many students were confused by the old method and faced severe financial consequences as a result. Jacklin estimates that 15 students each semester were receiving bills in the neighbourhood of $1000 to $2000 for courses that they had withdrawn from. He adds that in a lot of these cases the students had withdrawn because they couldn’t afford the cost of tuition.

“It’s very easy to say that students should be aware of these deadlines and know the rules but the implication is that if somebody made that mistake they were sometimes facing bills of over $2000. Nobody really wants to charge a student $2000 when they simply made a mistake of when to withdraw,” Jacklin says.

He says the new policy has been implemented with a “softer penalty” to students. Jacklin explains that in the past students would be fined with a 10 percent surcharge after failing to pay their fees. Now, students will receive a softer penalty in the interim two weeks where services such as library access will be withheld. He says that the softer penalties are designed to make students are aware of the severity the situation.

Jacklin adds the Registration Centre will also make special considerations for students who are awaiting their student loan funding. He notes that students must personally consult the Registration Centre in order to extend their fee payment deadline.

Students had varying opinions on the institution’s decision to cut back the deadline. Natalia Lassak, a Bachelor of Science student, was surprised by the early deadline. “I don’t see why they need it two weeks earlier,” says Lassak, who will be adding two courses to her timetable after the Jan. 21 deadline. She describes her situation as “stressful” and is not sure that she would have been able to pay the full amount at the deadline.

“I don’t think it’s too early,” says Althea Toynbee-Ristanovic, a Creative Writing Major. “The University makes it very easy to find out when your fees are due and refund you for courses you decide to drop. I think that [VIU] keeps us well informed to be fair,” concluded Toynbee-Ristanovic.