Get ready to beg, borrow or steal. Governing Council voted on April 10 to approve tuition fee hikes, which will see an average increase of 4.27 per cent for domestic students and 6.6 per cent for international students. Fee increases have been an almost annual practice since the Harris government’s cutbacks to post-secondary funding in the 90s. After premier Dalton McGuinty ended a brief, two-year fee freeze in September 2006, activists have been campaigning for a reinstatement of the freeze. Last year, after GC voted to increase fees, financial reports showed a net income of $134.5 million on U of T’s operations.
The new fee hike has student unions worried that U of T will become less financially accessible.
Rob Steiner, U of T’s AVP of strategic communications, dismissed the possibility of financial barriers. “The university has an iron-clad accessibility guarantee that financial considerations will not keep you from either entering or completing a program you’re admitted into,” said Steiner. “A large amount of our budget goes into that guarantee.”
A bigger deterrent, according to Steiner, is the belief that university is more expensive than it actually is. “When folks go around pretending that there are 20 per cent fee increases, that’s fear-mongering,” he said. The whopping 23.5 per cent increase, the highest of the fee hikes, applies to international students entering the Masters music composition program, which Steiner called a “separate matter.”
“It has an unfortunate effect on people who don’t realize how accessible education already is,” he said.
UTSU VP external Dave Scrivener disagreed, saying that while students from the lowest-income groups can barely get by with financial aid grants, the fee hike would affect the middle class the most. “It’s the middle class that is not being allowed to access the grants,” he said, “and not being able to pay fees without a massive debt-load and a part-time job.”