By Naomi Powell
It will be at least two years before fees statements start making sense, said a Ryerson administrator.
Confusing fees statements were a source of major concern for students, according to the Ombudsperson’s annual report.
But plans to post user-friendly statements online will require a new student information system similar to Ryerson’s Integrated Student Information System (RISIS), said Janice Winton, executive director of financial services.
Ryerson hasn’t set a deadline for the new system, said Winton, but she thinks the process could take two or three years. The school will also consider revising the way fees are calculated.
“[RISIS] is an academic information system, not a financial system. It can post fees online but not that well,” said Winton. “We all believe statements could be clearer. That’s why we’re looking into a new system.”
Students have complained that fee statements use a complicated formula for calculating fees and do not include explanations for the charges.
“I got a statement saying I owed $400, but it didn’t say what for,” said Sossy Bederien, a first year journalism student. “If I hadn’t called the office, I could have just paid for it and never known it was a mistake.”
Bederian was charged for a course that she intended to drop. She received the statement in the mail in mid-December, after she had finished her exams and started her holidays. She said an online statement would have eliminated the delay in the mail and made it easier for her to clear up the problem.
Timetables and grades have been available online at the Registrar’s Office Web Services (ROWS) for over a year. Last term, the Registrar’s Office stopped sending paper information altogether and relied entirely on ROWS and RISIS to inform students.
For most of the students who have been using the Internet to check program calendars and information guides, going online to find out their class times and grades was a smooth transition.
“I always use the website anyway,” said Karen Campbell, a fourth year nutrition student. “The mail takes a lot longer. This way I can get my grades right away.”
The new system was a little more difficult for students with limited access to the Internet.
“When I’m at home my Internet connection is really slow, so I find it very frustrating to download things like timetables,” said Marie-Lauren Gregoire, a first year journalism graduate student. “But for the most part I think it’s a good system.”
The money Ryerson saved in postage costs is helping the Registrar’s Office absorb a 3.7 per cent budget cut that it incurred last year, said Keith Alnwick, registrar.
Alnwick said his office plans to eventually use the Internet as its default form of communication because of the convenience.
“There are universities that have been in this paperless mode for years,” he said. “Paper mail doesn’t provide good service. When you are dealing with thousands of pieces of mail, there are always some that go astray.”
But Winton said providing fees statements online is not as simple.
“It is a totally different process to post fees,” she said.
The Student Fees office has posted an explanation for fees statements on the ROWS site, Winton said, and there are no plans to revise the format of the paper statements.