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Project sponsored by: Co-operative Education and the Federation of Students
Prepared by: Co-op Fee Comprehensive Review Project Team
Last updated: October 2018
Based on conversations with representatives from student societies and the Federation of Students (Feds), Co-operative Education recognized the need to lead a comprehensive review of the co-op fee. In early 2017, discussions began to start this project and it was officially launched in July 2017. Students wanted to better understand the purpose and scope of the co-op fee enabled the project team to focus on key concerns and implement some recommendations (uwaterloo.ca/co-op/fee).
The Co-operative Education (CE) department and the Federation of Students (Feds) are partners on this initiative. The project scope aims to:
This Comprehensive Review Project has been divided into four distinct phases:
This summary was produced with numbers from the 2017/18 fiscal year. A breakdown of the current co-op fee is available on the co-op fee project website. This report summarizes the findings from Phase 1- Current State Analysis, provide a summary of the student consultations, review the findings and indicate the next steps which will be Phase 2 of this initiative. This report is now being shared with the Co-operative Education Council as the overall summary to demarcate the end of Phase 1 and transition to Phase 2.
Here are the goals for Phase 1 that frame this report:
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) is responsible for the administration of laws relating to post-secondary education and skills training. At the University of Waterloo, the Department of Institutional Analysis and Planning (IAP) ensures we abide by these regulations.
Co-operative Education programs in Canada are accredited by Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada). Accreditation standards were developed to establish co-op as a pedagogical framework and to provide leadership in ensuring consistency and quality in co-op programming across Canada.
Co-op fees charged to co-op students are not related to the services received in any one term, but represent the cost of providing these services over the course of their co-op degree. The fees are paid over a number of academic terms in order to keep each fee payment as moderate as possible.
Depending on the student’s program of study, the fee is assessed and charged beginning one or two academic terms prior to the student’s first work term. The fee continues to be charged to the student every subsequent academic term from the first time they’re assessed the co-op fee up to, and including, the student’s last academic term.
A student’s co-op fee in an undergraduate co-op program is assessed between five and eight times, depending on their specific program. With the co-op fee currently set at $729 (for the 2018/19 fiscal year) an undergrad co-op student could pay anywhere between $3,645 and $5,832 in total co-op fees throughout their entire co-op undergraduate career. Further detail may be found in Appendix C in the full report.
The philosophy and practice of assessing co-op fees at the graduate student level is inconsistent with that at the undergraduate student level. While undergraduate students pay co-op fees as a program participation fee, graduate program co-op fees are assessed when a grad student secures a co-op job (resulting in the appearance as a “fee for service” philosophy). Student feedback indicates that this is seen as undergraduates subsidizing co-op for graduates. In 2018, graduate students accounted for 1.4% of all work terms.
A very brief description of the co-op fee is posted on the University website and minimal detail is public. This project was initiated, in part, due to student feedback asking for more detail, clarity and transparency. As part of this project, a webpage was set up to better explain the co-op fee and what the fee funds. Work has also begun across the campus to review and improve communications about the co-op fee in the recruitment and admissions material for prospective co-op students.
The budget allocated to Co-operative Education for the current year is based on actual fees collected in the previous year, it is referred to as a “slip year” budget. Eighty per cent of the previous year’s actual revenue becomes the current year’s budget to support Co-operative Education.
For example, the budget presented to the Board of Governors April 4, 2017 indicated a co-op fee recovery of $18.9 million for the 2016/17 fiscal year. This amount would be allocated for the 2017/18 fiscal year as:
However, the estimate of co-op fee recovered funds is published before the year-end results are finalized. A final number is not known until Finance completes the year-end close until Spring term.
For the seven-year period between 2011/12 - 2017/18, the fee has increased from $584 per term to $709 per term, a cumulative increase 21.4%. (A breakdown of the 2018/2019 fee is posted on our website.)
Historical fee amounts were documented and compared to other fees on campus such as the Student Services Fee (a non-refundable fee assessed to all full time and undergraduate students). For the same period as above (2011/12 - 2017/18), the full-time undergraduate Student Services Fee has increased from $133 per term to $162 per term, a cumulative increase of 21.8%.
Co-op fees cover the co-op employment process, student advising, programming, resource development, employer relationship management, faculty and institutional relations, new job development, infrastructure and administration and some university central costs such as building maintenance.
To determine the costs spent on each of these services, every role and expense funded by student co-op fees was taken into account and sorted into seven distinct categories of work/costs to convey how much of the co-op fee supports each work category.
The budget number of $18.9 million reflects the actual co-op fees collected during fiscal May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017.
Figure 1. Allocation of co-op fee ($, in millions)
Of the $18.9 million total co-op fee budget, $13.0 million (or 70%) is attributed to salaries, $2.1 million (or 10%) is attributed to direct non-salary expenses and the remaining $3.8 million (or 20%) is attributed to indirect university central costs.
These same details can also be translated into a second visual that highlights the breakdown of a single $709 co-op fee.
Figure 2. Allocation of the co-op fee (in dollars)
The growth of co-op students was compared to the growth in three key roles representing 57% of the total FTE headcount: staff supporting interviews, student advisor roles and account managers.
As the number of interviews per student increases, the cost of providing interview services increases on a per-student-basis. The average student scheduled out for co-op attends nearly one more interview today (3.6 interviews per term) than they did in 2016 (2.9 interviews per term), resulting in increased interviews and costs overall.
The graph on the following page shows the increase in interviews and the increase in staff directly supporting those interviews.
From 2013 to 2018, the number of students supported by Co-operative Education has increased by 29% whereas the number of student advisors hired to support students has grown by 27%.
The average SA role today is responsible for 280 students per-term today, which is up from 275 students per-term in 2013.
While the number of active employers has increased 14% since 2013/14, the number of account managers (AMs) in CE has not grown over the past five years. This is because CE has restructured the work to remove more routine responsibilities from account manager roles to the operational area where these functions can be performed effectively and efficiently at lower job levels. If the change had not been made, two additional AMs would need to be hired today.
The average AM role manages 55 (13.5%) more employers today than in 2013/14 (from 406 to 461 employers on average).
In May 2018, a survey about the University’s co-op fee was distributed to 19,353 Waterloo co-op students via email, digital channels and on-campus signage. Valid responses were received from 3,258 active co-op students for a response rate of 16.8%. Additional focus groups were conducted with dozens of students in early June 2018.
Key findings from the survey and focus groups included:
Through these consultations, the project team was able to confirm that students are looking for more information about what services that the co-op fee pays for, and why the fee increases annually. They also want this information earlier in the process and through more direct, easy-to-consume channels than today.
The project team will wind down the first phase of this project and begin the next phase. This second phase will be defined during fall 2018. Phase 2 will divide the findings of the first phase into two streams of work.
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