After a moment of silence for the war in Iraq, U of T’s Governing Council (GC) voted to increase tuition fees across the board for the next academic year at a meeting on April 3.

Faced with the hike, U of T President Robert Birgeneau joked that his thoughts had been split for the past few weeks, between international events and U of T’s ailing finances. “As I was praying for peace, I should have prayed for the recovery of the stock market,” Birgeneau said, referring to the beating the ailing stock market delivered to U of T’s equity investments.

The meeting was bound to be controversial; for years, the meeting to decide tuition increases has been met with protests both inside and outside the Governing Council chambers in Simcoe Hall. This year, a group of students gathered outside to show their unhappiness at the increases.

Inside, some student governors were upset at the GC’s policy of restricting speakers who were not part of the university community. Cristina Oke, secretary of the council, said restricting outside speakers to 20 minutes of the meeting was necessary “to ensure that there is a minimum period of time protected for governors to debate the matter and to hear one another’s views.”

In her report to the council, provost Shirley Neuman said that the tuition fee increases under discussion were necessary “to ensure fiscal responsibility as we deal with other aspects of revenue.” She added that the increases would also “ensure quality” for students attending U of T. Neuman added that 75 per cent of the increases were less that 1.9 per cent—the Ontario government’s mandated fee increase cap for most programmes.

But law students will be steeper hikes, as part of the Faculty of Law’s “Raising our sights” plan, which will see fees rise to $22,000 by 2006. Jennifer Matthews, president of the Students’ Law Society, said the plan was a “risky strategy” and that such increases weren’t necessary to ensure quality at a school that was already among Canada’s best.

Christopher Collins, president of the Graduate Students’ Union, said he was “very concerned with the continued increases in all programmes” and added his association “shared your outrage at the lack of help from the government of Ontario.” Collins said more than 4,000 graduate students were not covered under U of T’s guaranteed funding programme: “for over 4,000 students, the increases are ‘covered’ by way of increased debt, and less money for basic necessities of life.”

The Students’ Administrative Council’s equity commissioner also spoke against the increases. Mary Auxi-Guiao asked the GC “how many of the members of this council are aware that over 85 per cent of Ontarians surveyed support a tuition freeze, even if it means higher taxes?” She said U of T “sets the tone and the standard for education in Ontario.

“Is this a university where the wealthy and the few are encouraged to pursue education, especially

professional education like law?” she asked.

But other governors praised the Faculty of Law’s plan to advance excellence as well as student aid. Others praised the honesty of the tuition increase process.

In the end, the GC voted to increase tuition for regulated programmes by 1.9 per cent, making tuition in Arts and Science degrees $4,185 for next year.For degregulated programmes, which are generally professional degrees, tuition will raise 5 per cent for continuing students. New students will pay 5 per cent more than this year’s entering cohort, with some exceptions. Engineering students will see a 12 per cent increase, making their tuition $7,000 for next year. Dentistry students entering into the DDs degree will pay 17,950, an increase of 8.8 per cent. —WITH FILES FROM LIZ BEN-ISHAI

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