York University is increasing the price of course auditing: Here’s why it’s a mistake

(Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

York University is making a mistake.

The university recently changed the price of auditing a course. Previously, the price to audit a year-long 6.0 course was a modest sixty dollars. Now the price to audit is half the cost of a regular 6.0 credit and 3.0 credit course.

A regular, fully-priced, two-semester 6 credit course costs $1,439.88. To audit a full-year course is now $719.94. The cost for a 3 credit one-semester course is $719.94 – it now costs $359.97 to audit.

When I spoke with an academic advisor in April, she told me it cost $60 to audit a two-semester course – a York University website also listed this price. In June, I contacted the Office of Student Support and Advising. They informed me of the price increase. During this time, the York website no longer contained information about how to pay for auditing a course.

In contrast to other universities in the area, the University of Toronto does not impose any auditing fees for registered students. The prices even vary at other York-affiliated campuses. Glendon, a multilingual York satellite campus in Toronto, has clearly displayed the auditing fees on its website (something that is absent on York University’s main website). For regular students wanting to audit a Glendon campus course, it only costs them a minuscule amount of ten dollars per credit.

With these facts in mind, I have to ask the question: Why did York University dramatically increase its auditing fees? And, from my observations, with little to no notice from the general students and staff? I’ve asked these questions to the advising office and to yorknow@yorku.ca, and I have yet to receive any clear responses. But I do have something to say about this unfortunate decision.

York’s decision to increase the price of course auditing goes against the values that a university should strive to uphold.

Universities are ideally tied to the concept of liberalism. In this context, I’m referring to the liberalism that cultivates freedom of speech, exploration, thought, inquiry, nuance, and study, unfettered by censorship or layers of bureaucracy. Universities, including York in particular, should strive to make information more accessible to paying students by offering affordable course auditing. This is consistent with the core values of a good university; it should be a center of open learning that encourages the growth of knowledge and skills for students; it should operate as a place of opportunity, not limitation.

Many young freshmen enter university without a clear educational trajectory or plan. Affordable auditing encourages new students to experiment with different subjects, to discern and discover what they want to study without committing to astronomical prices, demanding workloads, or full-on program changes. Also, the process of auditing an online course — whether it’s affordable or not — presents further complications.

York offers a number of online classes in 2023. What if a student wants to audit an online course? And what if York only provides a student with an online option for a specific class? With online education, a student exploring other options cannot walk in and sit in the back corner of a large lecture hall and listen. Websites, emails, and online classroom portals all demonstrate the greater separation between the student and the teacher. This gives the university more regulatory influence, making the student dependent on tedious administrative processes.

How would a student audit an online course associated with the Keele campus? Well, because there is little mention of auditing on York University’s website for the main campus, and because the phone numbers and emails for such inquiries are almost absent, a student is left to aimlessly ping-pong through websites and assortments of university-affiliated email addresses in a kafkaesque fashion, to find some inch of clarification about how to audit a single course, which currently costs anywhere between $350 and $719.

In addition, York describes itself as having an “open” and “inclusive” learning environment. If the university truly wants to cherish this title, the institution should apply inclusivity to the most fundamental service it offers — education. True inclusivity in a university means a greater opening, expansion, and liberation of the learning environment for students. On the most basic level, affordable auditing represents the values that York often extolls.

By increasing the price of auditing, York is putting up more financial barriers for its students. It prevents bright minds from getting exposed to more educational options, which opens doors to different programs and even career possibilities.

Money is certainly a priority for York University; it wouldn’t survive without it. And York must be fiscally responsible. But with the rising cost of living and pressures mounting for many students, my questions to those in charge are this: Why increase the auditing fees when it limits educational opportunities for students? If money is a concern, aren’t there other areas where the university could find cost-saving measures? And why not clearly explain how to audit a course and publicly share the price, similar to the way Glendon does it?

The real cost of this decision is the diminished educational experience for York students. Asking students to spend anywhere between three hundred and seven hundred dollars to attend lectures is misguided. Full-time students already pay their dues — they’re spending each semester. 

About the Author

By David Clarke

Former Editor

David is in his fourth year, studying English at York University. He has a keen interest in filmmaking, writing, literature, video-editing, and ideas. When he isn’t working on his next project or studying, you can catch him watching film-noirs on Turner Classic Movies.


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