Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Camosun student says college not following its own fee policy

November 29, 2017 by Adam Marsh, student editor

Camosun student Justin Lee says that the college is not following its own regulations for its fee structures. The second-year Post-Degree Diploma in Business Administration-Accounting student noticed that Camosun is charging the same amount for 42-hour courses as it is for 56-hour versions of the same course; Lee says that this is not in line with Camosun’s fee policy, which states, according to the college’s website, that Camosun courses are billed on a “cost-per-hour calculation.”

Lee says he took his concern to Camosun and to the Camosun ombudsman, but he wasn’t satisfied with what he was told.

“The response from the [Camosun] registrar is that they do it on a course content basis,” says Lee, “and that’s in direct contradiction of their policy.”

Camosun student Justin Lee says the college is violating a fee policy (photo by Adam Marsh/Nexus).

Camosun vice president of education John Boraas confirms that courses are billed on a cost-per-hour basis, but he says that some courses have “blended” online components that make it hard to judge a course on a per-hour basis.

“That’s the challenge,” says Boraas. “This is the case in all educational institutions. The billing is based on the approved hours by the educational senate or council, and then a determination is made as to how to deliver it.”

The college has courses that are delivered completely online; the tuition is the same for one of those as it is for the equivalent course delivered in person, despite having no classroom hours.

But the courses Lee is concerned about—Finance 210, Business 140, and Accounting 111—do not have blended online portions, according to course information on Camlink, and Lee says that all the learning is done in person, not online.

“Obviously every course has D2L, but there’s no official thing that says we go on D2L and receive X hours of instruction online,” he says. “I looked them up on Camlink; they’re all listed as just the same as any regular course. There’s no blended component. This is not to say there aren’t blended courses. I’m sure they exist, and in that case, I’m sure that the pricing is probably valid.”

Lee says that he would like to see Camosun issue a refund to all the students who have, in his opinion, been overcharged. Lee adds, however, that no governing body has acknowledged that a refund would be valid.

“I’d like Camosun to bring themselves back into compliance with their own policy,” he says. “I think that’s fair and reasonable.”

By his own approximation, Lee feels he is owed $270 in fees. He has taken his concern to the Office of the BC Ombudsperson.

“They didn’t really want to refund all students affected, even though they are just as entitled as I am to that refund,” he says, adding that he is not sure if students in other programs at the college have been impacted as well. “This is where it all gets very tricky; [the Office of the BC Ombudsperson] never officially acknowledged anything, even that there was any wrongdoing. They just floated over a phone call the possibility of refunding me and, eventually, my classmates.”

After reviewing a few course outlines, Boraas says he “would not be inclined to support” Lee getting a refund for his classes, but he adds that Lee is always welcome to file an appeal.

“At this point, unless there’s something dramatic that I haven’t seen, I don’t see a justification for a refund,” says Boraas. “We have been consistent in delivering what our contract with the student obliges us to do.”

Boraas says that it’s his intention to be more transparent to Camosun students about which courses have online and in-person components.

“I would encourage them to talk to the chair of their department if they have particular learning styles or approaches that they prefer,” he says. “I think it’s a perception that somehow we’re doing something sneaky… We are going to do an upgrade on the web describing the differences that are available. We’re going to try to make this even more transparent. We do ensure that the course syllabus shows classroom hours versus online hours.”

Lee says that he has contacted the Office of the BC Ombudsperson in the year since he made his initial inquiry and found that they had not looked into anything.

“I had given them a lot of time to go through with the investigation and see what they found,” he says. “When I finally went back to their office and talked to them again, they still had nothing new to report.”

Outreach Information and Education Officer for the BC Ombudsperson Peggy Kulmala says she cannot discuss details of an ongoing investigation, nor can she confirm that an investigation has taken place or is taking place.

“Privacy is so important in these investigations, so we just simply can’t discuss any type of investigation or even confirm that one is ongoing,” says Kulmala.

Lee says that he has not brought this to anyone’s attention, including his classmates, because he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but he now believes people need to know.

“I was hoping to have this dealt with without it becoming a massive scandal for everyone,” he says. “It’s rather unfortunate that it’s come to this point.”

Boraas says that the college will be getting rid of the “B” that indicates blended courses in course descriptions in an effort to provide clarity to students.

“Being transparent and clear about what the students should expect,” he says, “is what I’ll take from this.”

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Comments

One Response to “Camosun student says college not following its own fee policy”
  1. Justin Lee says:

    Hi:

    I’d like a chance to respond to Mr. Boraas’ comments in this Nexus news article:

    The cost per hour policy states that the hours used to calculate this are referenced in the course descriptions for each course.

    In the course calendar, the official course descriptions of affected courses clearly state they are 4 lecture hours per week courses (in a 14 week semester) with a specific price and when it’s in effect.

    I have a non-exhaustive list of 127 affected classes in my field of study, and none of them are identified as blended courses on Camlink.

    Justin

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