On March 30, U of T’s Governing Council discussed the federal budget published on March 28 and approved the university’s proposed budget for the 2023–2024 school year. The university expressed concern for the budget following the extension of Ontario’s domestic tuition freezes, but created a second budget schedule
Federal budget criticism
The Governing Council has criticized the province’s decision to extend the domestic tuition freeze, which is entering its fourth year. In his report, U of T President Meric Gertler noted that the Canadian federal budget does not provide much support for graduate and postdoctoral research compared to other countries. “This is a time for the entire postsecondary sector across the country to come together to urge the government to recommit to Canadian research as soon as possible,” Gertler said.
Gertler also highlighted the provincial government’s establishment of an expert panel to provide recommendations and advice on keeping the postsecondary education sector financially stable. The panel’s establishment follows the recent insolvency of Laurentian University, which forced the university to cut 69 graduate and undergraduate programs in 2021.
Gertler also mentioned the March 2023 Report of the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System, released by U15 — an organization of leading Canadian research universities working to advance research and innovate policies and programs. The report calls for a 10 per cent annual increase in funding for the Canadian research councils, which fund graduate student scholarships, for at least the next five years.
Cheryl Regehr, vice-president and provost, presented the budget. She highlighted the 10 per cent cut to tuition in 2019 and the ongoing domestic tuition freeze. As a result of these measures, Regehr said that, after adjusting for inflation, current Ontario domestic tuition fees for Arts and Science students are now lower than they were in 1999. She also highlighted that the university planned two different tuition fee schedules for the year, in case the province announced more flexibility for Ontario student tuition following the possible end of the tuition freeze. For the 2023–2024 school year, out of province domestic student tuition fees will increase by five per cent.
At the meeting, U of T Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) President Maëlis Barre spoke against the budget’s reliance on high international student tuition fees. “We need to ensure that 60 per cent of the revenue of U of T no longer relies on tuition fees because that’s not sustainable,” Barre said. She said that the UTMSU and student unions across Canada, alongside the Canadian Federation of Students, are lobbying the government to implement a new postsecondary act and tuition fee framework. The framework would regulate international students’ tuition and introduce measures to prevent universities from overcharging students to create more income.
The Governing Council approved the budget. The next Governing Council meeting is scheduled for 4:30–6:30 pm on May 18 at the UTSC Council Chamber.