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Putting a paywall on official academic documents only testifies to an inconsumable greed

By Marvellous Chukwukelu, April 22 2024—

The University of Calgary has recently elected to partner with MyCredsTM – a firm that offers an official credential wallet to post-secondary students and graduates – to deliver all official student academic documents. According to the university, this move serves as an assurance to the receiving organization that the documents in question did originate from the University of Calgary. Given the recent skirmishes that Canadian higher education has had with fraud, this move – although incredibly annoying – is quite reasonable. 

That is until you go to get one of these documents and realize that you now have to pay $10 to access it — with the exception of parchments.

In anticipation of your rightful confusion, the Office of the Registrar has included a new section on the student’s center website extolling the virtues of this “convenient” and “trusted” service while describing this new fee as a “cost recovery fee” meant to cover the cost the university incurs by electing to provide this service to the students. However, if we the students did not request this service, why exactly do we have to cover the cost especially when we are attending an institution that can easily bear this cost?

By its own admission, U of C  is home to about 34,000 students across five campuses. If every single one of them decided to pay to access every single document that the University of Calgary has to offer through MyCreds — an endeavour that would cost about $38 per student — all the payments would sum up to about $1.29 million, which is a fairly significant figure. However, keep in mind that the situation I described above is nearly statistically impossible. In reality, very few students will need more than one of these documents within a singular academic year and the vast majority will require none of them. This means that the sum total of all payments made for these documents is unlikely to reach half of the amount listed above. Compare this reality with the surplus of $27.4 million that the University of Calgary posted in the most recent annual financial report — 2022-2023 — and you are left with the conclusion that the university can easily choose to bear this cost yet decided not to.

Perhaps, if this was a smaller institution struggling with enrollment and staying afloat, this step to shield themselves from as much cost as they can would be understandable. However, with its endowment of $1.18 billion and thriving national and international reputation, U of C  continues to be a magnet for both national and international students and, as such, is nowhere near financial turmoil.

Considering its relative financial stability and its continuous, inexplicable tuition hikes, I can only think of one reason why U of C  continues to take steps such as this new paywall. That reason is greed. A greed so inconsumable that it continually pushes a non-profit institution – that is ironically immensely profitable — to secure its financial position at the expense of the very students it is charged to educate. The very same students, some of whom — just last year — were forced to live in their cars due to the fact that housing had become simply unaffordable.

Given the university’s inability and/or unwillingness to alleviate the burden of their students, it is only fair that they do not make themselves an additional source of unnecessary burden and reverse this decision to put up a paywall for historically free documents.

This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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