The “Performance Indicators for Governance” Report presented at last week’s Governing Council Meeting paints a rosy picture of the University of Toronto’s achievements in the past year. That is, if you buy it.
Despite the congratulatory tone of Professor Carolyn Tuohy’s presentation to the GC, some student governors doubted the correlation between the statistics released and the actual experience of students at U of T. Once the chorus of appreciation for Tuohy’s extensive study quieted down, student governors began to ask questions about accessibility, diversity, and quality of education.
The Performance Indicators for Governance showed U of T’s relative standing compared to major public research universities in the US, as well as the “G10” schools in Canada — the 10 major research universities, such as McGill and the University of British Columbia.
The report lauded U of T’s credentials in library resources, research performance, and student retention rates. More controversial were the figures that claimed student loan debt was decreasing.
Examining students graduating from first-year entry programs from 1997-2001, the report says that the percentage of graduates with no student loan debt has increased. The proportion with debts greater than $15,000 decreased during those years. In addition, U of T reported the fifth-lowest student loan default rate (5.8 per cent) among Ontario universities in 2001.
“Realistically, [student loan debt] statistics really do not portray the true picture of what people in professional faculties experience,” said Colm Murphy, a medical student and GC member. As professional faculties continue to deregulate tuition, with the law school tuition on its way to hitting $20,000, the report seemed incongruent with actual circumstance. Murphy cited examples of peers who were forced to take out loans as large as $125,000.
Murphy added that huge debt burdens “make a tremendous difference when you graduate, and you’re forced to make a career choice.”
Although Tuohy’s report showcased positive statistics on student loan debt, Murphy pointed to another study published recently in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The study, which surveyed 4,360 medical students, found that the proportion of respondents with a family income of less than $40,000 declined 42.6 per cent—calling into question the accessibility of medical school as tuition continues to rise.
The university’s report also found that there had been a 3 per cent decrease in the proportion of visible minorities in the U of T student body. In addition, numbers of those born outside of Canada are down 6 per cent.
Student governor Chris Ramsaroop expressed his concern at the meeting. “I’m quite shocked about seeing, especially in a city where there has been increasing diversity, that there has been a decrease in the proportion of visible minorities. What’s creating this? What’s happening?
“We have seen enormous budgetary cuts at the secondary and elementary level,” Ramsaroop said. He called upon the university to collect information on the impact of these cuts. “What impact [are these cuts] having on our diversity? Is there any correlation whatsoever?”
Tuohy acknowledged that Ramsaroop’s questions were “very good,” but dismissed the changes in diversity statistics as “marginal.”
“They’re going to continue to keep dismissing everything that we say, but we’re going to keep bringing it up over and over again,” Ramsaroop said.
“All the figures are showing that accessibility is deteriorating at our university, therefore there is definitely a problem,” he added.