The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) has started an email campaign calling for action to make education accessible for all students, highlighting the barriers that come with postsecondary tuition fees for many students in Ontario.
The campaign website prompts UTM students to provide their full name and email address and select the representatives they wish to alert. A prewritten email is then sent on their behalf to senior members of the U of T administration, laying out concerns about high tuition fees along with seven demands. This year, some students have called for a tuition freeze or decrease due to the shift to mostly online learning and financial impacts of COVID-19.
These include a call to “immediately reduce tuition fees for all students” and a demand for “fairness for International Students.” The campaign’s goal is to send 400 emails, with 261 sent so far.
In an email to The Varsity, UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi wrote that international students are left to “fend for themselves” with regard to rising tuition fees, and claimed that while the university takes an interest in recruiting and retaining international students, its services and supports do not back up this claim.
The campaign further highlights the implications of high tuition costs, claiming that the “province and institutions are interested in the wealthiest students, rather than the brightest students” and argues that “education now has a price tag that many students can no longer afford.”
As Yakubi wrote in her email to The Varsity, “The decision to reduce tuition fees for all students will allow students to better focus on their studies and personal development. Students will be better situated to study, work, and live with these supports set in place.”
The campaign email claims that there exists a lack of financial support for students and demands an increase in “Non-Academic Scholarships for All Students,” as well as an increase in “Awards and Grants for Indigenous and Black Students.” It also calls for “increasing paid Experiential Learning and Internship positions for all departments,” arguing that certain opportunities are inaccessible to some students due to financial costs.
The campaign email reads that many students are “left in the dark” and that student services are often “underfunded, understaffed and underrepresented.” It calls on U of T to implement mental health counsellors in every department and improve accessibility services.
The UTMSU claims that the lack of improvements in these areas has “discriminatory and detrimental impacts on students.” Yakubi wrote that, moving forward, the UTMSU will continue to lobby the U of T administration in regard to the seven demands listed in the campaign. They also plan to hold virtual workshops and seminars on “access to education and working towards creating more support systems and opportunities for our members.”
U of T Media Relations did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.