Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for reduced tuition and student fees at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), where classes are expected to be delivered online come September.

Abigail Unrau, the chemistry major who started the petition, said students shouldn’t have to pay athletics, recreation and transit fees if they won’t be on campus this fall.

“If we can’t use that stuff, then why should we pay for it?” Unrau, 20, told Global News.

As of Monday afternoon, about 3,500 people had signed the petition.

USask provost Anthony Vannelli said undergraduate students will see a 0.2-per cent tuition decrease on average this fall. Unrau said a larger tuition decrease is warranted since online classes eliminate the need to spend money on things like lab supplies.

“If they can’t do that, at least try to explain to us exactly what’s going on on their end, just so we can understand — just so we know they’re not just trying to do a money grab,” she said.

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The university directly determines about 20 per cent of student fees, Vannelli said, as most fees are paid to third-party providers.

“Fees were determined after working with all services providers… to ensure that services currently offered, and services expected to show increased demand over the fall term, are fully supported financially and readily accessible to students as needed,” Vannelli said in a statement.

Some services, like student counselling, will still be available in the fall and have been since campus closed in March.

“Services or facilities that closed in response to the provincial public health order will be reopening gradually, following the directives of federal and provincial guidelines, and the fees for fall term 2020 reflect that,” Vannelli said.

Student fees have been reduced for services that won’t be available for the start of the new term, including a 25-per cent cut to athletics and recreation fees, he added.

Student union president Autumn Larose-Smith said student fees have been reduced by $18 for the fall term. Unrau said that doesn’t cut it.

“I can’t even buy a week’s worth of groceries with that money,” she said.

Larose-Smith said students are understandably frustrated.

“We don’t think it should be on the backs of students or up to students to be paying that with their student fees in a time when they might not even be able to attend university.”

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