Two large institutions are looking for ways to make up for financial shortfalls, and students are going to end up paying for it.
In a recent memorandum from the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, the faculty calls for new sources of revenue to fund many of its “maxed out” programs, replace out-of-date equipment and services and to solve the shortage of facility time for intramurals.
Moreover, the report states, “Ontario’s persistent under-funding of its public education system, including its colleges and universities, is extremely foolish and harmful, which only cheats its citizens…[it] is essential that the Ontario government restore capital funding for co-curricular learning and healthy physical activity.”
Currently, both the Ontario government and U of T do not provide funding for co-curricular athletics. In fact, co-curricular athletics are not even part of U of T’s operating budget. Howard Tam, Vice President University Affairs of Students’ Administrative Council (SAC) explains, “The university pays virtually nothing to the operation of the Athletic Centre (AC). It’s all student fees and outside membership funded…the provincial government stopped funding such things years ago. If the government doesn’t pay, the university doesn’t feel obligated to pay.”
And since U of T doesn’t feel obligated to pay, the responsibility naturally falls onto U of T’s 63,109 students. For the current academic year, athletic fees for Hart House and the AC, which are included in the mandatory incidental campus fees, are $58.27 and $91.58 respectively. But come September 2004, both fees will increase.
For Hart House, the budget asks for an increase of 3.5 per cent, which will raise all full-time St. George students’ fees to $60.31.
As outlined in the Hart House budget overview, the increase will provide funding for three major areas. The first is a 15-year plan for the preservation and maintenance of the historic building, which opened in 1919. Second, Hart House is currently incorporating an elevator to all five floors to provide better accessibility. Last but not least, the money will cover the cost of the Arbor room, in which its “summer revenue was negatively affected by the SARS epidemic [and] it is not expected to break even this year.”
Furthermore, in the year 2002-03, Hart House’s revenue was $10 million but its expenses totaled $11 million. Even with the revenue transferred from U of T for Theatre, Hart House remained in deficit by $346,000 by year’s end. A careful look at the budget also reveals that $406,000 was spent on clubs and committees’ programs. Given that Hart House has 32 clubs and committees, an average of $11,000 was given to each club and committee last year.
Accordingly, the proposed budget aims to eliminate the deficit. The proposal states, “After two years of planned deficits, we [Hart House] were determined to balance the budget for 2004/05 and for the foreseeable future.”
For the AC, the Council of Athletics and Recreation has developed three options for its fees increase. The first option is a 7.88 per cent permanent increase (to $98.80) in fees for full-time and part-time St. George students only. With this option, three initiatives will take place: a $100,000 per year equity fund will be established, a major maintenance fund will be implemented and four extra hours in the AC will be extended on Sundays for three months. Towel service will continue free of charge but there will be a three per cent increase in instructional classes.
Option two calls for a 7.64 per cent permanent increase (to $98.85) for St. George students only and the three initiatives remain the same. There will also be a three per cent increase in classes but free towel service will be discontinued unless students purchase a locker. A locker will sell for $10 per month. Towel service without locker purchase will be $5 per month.
The third option asks for 7.64 per cent increase (to $98.58) for students at all three campuses and the three initiatives remain the same as with the discontinuation of free towel service described in option two. However, this option will only be considered if both options one and two are rejected. In such a case, two per cent of the 7.64 per cent increase will be permanent while the remaining 5.64 per cent will be temporary for three years. After three years, a new fee increase would be proposed and it would likely affect AC’s ability for long term planning.
The final decision on the budget will be made on March 2.