After three hours and 39 minutes of seemingly endless appeals not to raise tuition, members of the Business Board of U of T’s Governing Council voted to pass proposed increases last Monday.

The board members voted 11 to 5 to increase tuition fees. Governing Council must place the final seal of approval on the hikes on April 3.

Most controversial of these hikes was the proposed law school tuition increase to $16,000 from $14,000, up to an eventual $22,000 in 2006. Most programs will see tuition fee increases.

Arts and Science undergraduates will be paying 1.9 per cent more next year. Engineering students will see the second part of a two step process that began last year, bringing their tuition to $7,000, a 12 per cent increase. Students in their second year of Bachelors in Computer Science and Culture and Information Technology programs will pay $6,891 up from $6,563.

Another significant increase will affect the Faculty of Dentistry DDS programs, with tuition increasing 8.8 per cent in order to replace decrepit 25-year-old equipment.

These increases all come in the wake of significant investment stumbles for the university. Many increases will fail to cover or just barely meet the cuts resulting from these losses. Financial Services documents show a $3.1 million loss in investment income last year.

President Robert Birgeneau stressed the nature of U of T’s tuition policy. “The basic principle of the tuition policy is that public funding should be supplemented as can be demonstrated as necessary to offer an educational experience of the quality that ranks with the best public research universities in the world.”

The tuition policy also “assumes the existence of programs of student aid to maintain the accessibility of the university to students of varying financial means.” The university gave out $19 million in financial aid last year.

However, government funding continues to constrain the financial situation of the university. Arts and Science dean Carl Amrhein lamented the dire financial situation of his faculty. “From 1990-2004, not adjusting for inflation, the per-student funding in the operating budget of the Faculty of Arts and Science increased by the spectacular total of $350. If you adjust for inflation that represents a net decrease of just about $2,000 per student.”

He added that after this period of 14 years there are 25 per cent more students and 10 per cent fewer faculty in Arts and Science. Speaking in support of the tuition increases, Amrhein stressed that we must pay attention not just to accessibility, but quality.

He responded to the many students, including governors and SAC representatives, who came and spoke in protest.

“Student government is equally responsible for many aspects of our academic life, not just accessibility but program quality. I think it is unfair and irresponsible for student government and the boards of governing council to focus on one admittedly vital, but only one, aspect of our life.”

MPP Rosario Marchese, the representative for Trinity-Spadina, the riding that includes U of T, came to address the board. Marchese, an NDP MPP for 14 years, asked the board to resist the government under-funding by choosing not to raise tuition fees.

“The college and university system has sustained $2.3 billion in cuts since this government has come into power. What you had to do to make up for that is increase tuition fees. And what you had to do is deregulate tuition,” said Marchese.

He added, “By increasing the tuition fees what you’re doing is letting this government off the hook.”

Looking at the members of the board, Marchese commented, “I’m going to recommend that many of you, who are very close to this government, could influence this government and public policy if you from time to time publicly say ‘we need government support.’”

The strongest objections to the administration’s proposed tuition hikes concerned law tuition. Provost Shirley Neuman recently released a study that claims accessibility and career choice have not been affected by recent increases at the faculty. The law school says high levels of financial aid have allowed them to maintain this standard.

Governor John Nestor said, “Let me first say that I recognize this school’s commitment to financial aid, which is unparalleled among Canadian law schools. This is fitting when tuition levels, too, are unparalleled.”

Nestor said despite financial aid, many students already fall through the cracks, particularly those in the middle income range. As well, he added, the fear of career distortion is warranted. “I worry that our great institution, for all of its laudable and increased emphasis on public interest law, will send fewer and fewer students to that work,” he noted, adding “I say that we must build our financial aid program…before tuition continues to increase.”

Yet other governors felt that the board had no choice but to roundly raise tuition fees.

“I don’t think anyone feels good about raising tuition fees, but at the same time there is a sense of inevitability based upon how serious our budget situation is,” said board member Paul Godfrey, participating by teleconference.

“We could become very popular by trying to take a stand and voting against it but that’s not the responsible way of handling businesses and being a member of business board.”

The board members voted 11 to 5 to increase tuition fees. Governing Council must place the final seal of approval on the hikes on April 3.

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