The UTM Campus Affairs Committee (CAC) met on January 10, and the UTM Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) met on January 11. The CAC discussed proposed changes to service ancillaries, which would result in an almost nine per cent increase in the annual cost for living on residence. Proposed changes will affect Hospitality Services, Parking Services, and Student Housing & Residence Life (SHRL). Following that, the AAC meeting included a presentation on UTM’s student intake for the 2022–2023 school year.
Residence costs and renovations
At the CAC meeting, Brian Cunha, the director of SHRL, presented proposed changes to the cost of student housing residences that were endorsed by the Student Housing Advisory Committee. Some of the changes include a 35 per cent price increase at Leacock Lane Residence, an upper-year residence, to compensate for a renovation project. Proposed renovations include the installation of new doors, windows, floors, bathrooms, kitchens, and landscaping.
Due to the cost of inflated goods and services, as well as the cost of new and existing construction projects on campus, the annual cost for living on residence at UTM will increase by almost nine per cent. Leacock Lane Residence costs will be increased to equal the other upper year residence buildings, Putnam Place and McLuhan Court.
MaGrath Valley Residence is also supposed to undergo two phases of renovations during 2023–2025.
The 2023–2024 Operating Plans and Budget — presented at the CAC meeting — outlined the cost for a new food service outlet in the new Arts, Culture, and Technology building, which UTM plans to open in 2024–2025.
Meanwhile, UTM predicts an almost seven per cent increase in the price of food offerings, and a 6.8 per cent increase in basic meal plan cost, as compared to the previous year.
The Plus +500 flex dollars meal plan cost will increase to $5,150 and the Plus +250 flex dollars meal plan will increase to $4,900. Overall, the forecasted impact on meal plans is a 6.1 per cent increase.
The 2023–2024 Operating Plans and Budget is preparing to move to a virtual parking permit software using license plate recognition, as well as an increase to 12 dual charging points of electric vehicles (EV) on campus, doubling the current number.
This increase presents a step toward sustainability and efficiency on campus.
Currently, the first four hours of EV charging are complimentary, after which an hourly five dollar fee is charged to encourage turnover. However, next year’s budget reduces the complimentary charging period to only two and a half hours and increases the hourly fee for subsequent hours of charging, although the amount of that increase has not yet been determined.
The budget proposes a two per cent increase in parking pass prices for P4 and P8 lots, along with a three per cent increase for all other passes.
The Post and Pay parking tickets will not increase.
The CAC meeting ended with unanimous approval of the proposed ancillary changes. At the next meeting, scheduled for February 8, the committee will vote on proposed increases to compulsory non academic incidental fees. Cunha presented the proposed increases to fees, including an additional two dollars for health and services, a $5.80 increase for athletics, and a $31.29 increase for the Student Services Fees bundle.
At the AAC meeting, Lorretta Neebar, UTM’s registrar and director of enrolment management, presented the UTM Enrolment Update. She explained that the campus’s intake for 2022 was lower than it was for 2021, dropping from 4463 to 3410 students.
“We did consciously give out fewer offers of admission this year, particularly in [the] international sphere, and particularly in high demand and high pressure programs like computer science, forensic science, commerce, and management,” Neebar said. She highlighted that those programs have a higher international student enrolment, and so UTM focused on increasing international student rates in lower-yield humanities programs.
This decision dropped UTM’s total international student intake from 1663 students in 2021 to 813 in 2022.
Through the Ontario University and College Application, U of T is able to see what other universities a student applies to in Ontario. Neebar explained that the university is seeing an increase of international students applying to schools outside of Ontario, which U of T is not able to keep track of — so they are giving out acceptances, but students may choose another school that U of T isn’t aware of.
Some attendees raised concerns that the process of transferring money to the university to pay for tuition and other fees incurs a whole separate cost: banking systems in other countries charge students for international transactions. When asked if there was anything being done to lower the cost for students. UTM President and Vice Provost Alexandra Gillespie explained that the process to remove the extra fees “is slow work because of regulatory structures and systems. But I’m optimistic [that] in the next couple of years, we’ll see that change.”
Margarida Duarte, the chair of the Department of Economics, voiced concerns about the lowered student admissions to the higher demand streams like commerce, management, and computer science. “That [decision] affected Economics in a very sharp way… we are feeling the consequences of it.” They explained that the Department of Economics essentially wasted a great amount of resources as they had anticipated admitting more students.
Neebar explained that one of UTM’s main problems is that the campus has been trying to expand since 2003, and so more enrolment has never been an issue, but now UTM is becoming more conscious about admission categories. “We are not the campus we were in 2003, so we definitely need to do things differently,” she said.
UTM used to have a faculty to student ratio that was unsustainable, so the campus is seeking to balance that ratio.
Post-pandemic enrolment observations
Andrea Urie, the assistant dean for Student Wellness Support and Success at UTM, expressed observations concerning student well-being.
During the pandemic, students participating in counseling and mental health appointments expressed feelings of isolation, lack of social connection, and lack of engagement in what used to be normal university activities.
Following the return to campus, Urie said, “We have seen an increase in registrations for academic accommodations with accessibility services.” She highlighted that the primary accommodation request was for mental illness, as well as there was “a dramatic increase in disability symptoms and difficulties in relation to returning to in person learning”.
Urie also discussed a higher number of instances of inappropriate student behavior in a post pandemic environment, saying that students are struggling to learn some pre-pandemic social behaviors.
“Being able to log onto a meeting, send a quick text through a chat option… is very different than ensuring that you arrive to class on time, raise your hand and have to wait for acknowledgement before adding to conversations, or converse and write correspondence that involves carefully selected wording to ensure that it is respectful.” Urie said, adding that “group work has created a lot of challenges in the last semester because they don’t know how to work with each other.”
Urie explained that a possible solution is to offer more support to students through peer mentoring learning communities, drop in wellness activities, and an online learning module teaching faculty and staff how to identify and manage students in distressing situations. Faculty and staff, Urie stated, play a fundamental role in supporting students. She added, “Our students very often disclose to us that the support that they received from faculty have changed the outcome of the challenge that they were experiencing.”