Craccum understands that students applying for compassionate consideration and aegrotats are still being charged a fee this semester.
This contradicts emails sent by the university earlier this year, in which spokespeople repeatedly stated that fees would be waived for applications made this semester.
According to the university’s website, compassionate consideration fees are a $30-$50 fee students have to pay if they are unable to sit an exam because they are sick, in an accident, or have been affected by an unforeseen event which has affected their ability to complete the exam (such as a family member dying suddenly beforehand). If students don’t pay the fee, they run the risk of failing their papers.
Earlier in the year, Craccum revealed the university planned to charge the fee against students who were affected by COVID-19. The news caused staff, students, and politicians to publicly call on the university to scrap the fees.
As a result of the backlash, Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater announced she would be waiving the fees “this semester”.
In an early email to students and staff, Freshwater stated the fees would be waived for COVID-19 related applications only. However, in later emails, she appeared to expand the waiver further, stating that “arrangements for aegrotat and compassionate consideration will continue, but with the fee charge waived”.
Many students took the broad wording in these subsequent emails to mean that all application fees would be waived. This view was supported by a statement Craccum received by the university. When Craccum asked a spokesperson to clarify if all compassionate consideration fees would be waived this semester, we were told that “the administration fees for both the aegrotat and compassionate consideration process will be waived for Semester Two”. The spokesperson did not state that the waiver would apply only to COVID-19 related applications.
In multiple different emails sent to students and staff throughout September and October, Freshwater repeatedly said that the application fee would be waived for compassionate consideration applications. Nowhere in these subsequent emails did she state that this waiver would apply only to COVID-19 related applications. The wording strongly implied that all application fees would be waived.
However, Craccum understands that students are still being charged the application fee if their application is not COVID-19 related.
One student told Craccum that they were charged when they applied for compassionate consideration. They were told that the fee waiver did not apply to non-COVID-19 related applications.
This student’s statement is supported by the compassionate consideration application form itself (which can be found on the university’s website). The form states that the fee will only be waived if the student can prove their application is COVID-19 related.
Moreover, Craccum understands that, even where students have applied for COVID-19 related reasons, some students have had trouble having the fee waived. Another student who spoke to Craccum claimed that they had applied for compassionate consideration for COVID-19 related reasons, but were told they would have to pay the fee unless they could prove they tested positive for the virus. Craccum contacted the university to confirm whether or not this is true; they have seen our email but have not replied to confirm or deny whether students need to produce a positive test to have their fees waived.
One student who spoke to Craccum said they were worried this might encourage sick students to come to university.
“I think it’s asking sick students to make a choice between staying home, and having to pay a fee, versus going to class or tests or whatever and not having to fork out for it,” they said.
Another echoed similar sentiments.
“I do think a fee is probably going to encourage sick students to come to university”.
“We’re all students, we’re not exactly rolling in money. Right now I’m waiting for my pay to come in and I know I personally wouldn’t have the funds to pay for an application fee if I had to do it right now.”
Another student told Craccum that they didn’t think the fees were fair in the first place.
“It makes no sense to me. The university is charging you for being sick. Like, ‘that sucks that you were in an accident, give us 50 bucks please’. Isn’t it enough that we pay our course fees?”
“I didn’t get why students were so happy that the fees were being waived in the first place. They were only being waived for one semester – and then I guess they’re not actually being waived anyway. Why can’t the university waive the fees for all semesters?”.
Two staff members working at the university told Craccum they believe the fees are not actually used to cover any costs. Instead, they believe the university charges students an application fee to lower the numbers of students who apply for consideration. Craccum is in the process of lodging an Official Information Request to determine whether or not this is true.
A spokesperson for the Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) told Craccum that they have heard similar stories from concerned students. AUSA plans to meet to discuss the matter later today.
We have contacted the university for comment but have not yet received a reply.