Tuition increases are inevitable in Ontario. Universities are underfunded and now another factor is put in the mix: a drop in enrollment due to demographic shifts.
From The Ontarion:
Potential increases in cost of education face backlash
For those of us that have been in university for a few years now, tuition increases approved by the University of Guelph’s Board of Governors have been an observable trend. Recently, it was reported that the University of Guelph plans to once again increase tuition by the maximum amount allowed in Ontario. This time, it is said to be due to the predicted drop in enrollment by about 300 students next year.
May Warren of the Guelph Mercury reported that this dip in the University of Guelph’s enrollment is symptomatic to a demographic shift and decrease of 18 to 20-year-olds in Ontario. This trend is expected to continue until at least 2021, when the number of students is expected to level 2013 numbers by 89 per cent.
Serge Desmarais, Interim Provost and Vice-President Academic, announced that due to the drop, it’s been proposed to raise tuition by about three per cent to compensate for loss of revenue. Decisions on the proposal will be made on April 16, when it will go to U of G’s Board of Governors for considerations.
This hike in tuition to offset drop in enrollment is alarming for students returning in the fall semester.
“Increasing tuition fees are not a result of declining enrollment,” says Peter Miller, Central Student Association (CSA) University Affairs Commissioner. “The Board of Governors has voted to increase tuition fees each year since 2006.”
“The Board of Governors should vote to not raise tuition fees and not make budget cuts,” continued Miller. “They need to instead take a public and definite stance, with the students and workers of the University of Guelph, in calling on the provincial and federal governments to increase funding to our education system.”
Miller also referred to Communications and Corporate Affairs Commissioner Sonia Chwalek’s analysis on the underfunded state of universities in Ontario.
“Ontario has the highest tuition fees in the country, largely as a result of chronic underfunding,” said Chwalek. “The increasing privatization and corporatization of universities [is something] we should be extremely concerned about.”
“Tuition fees provide for over half of the funding of universities’ operation budgets, where once the provincial government provided approximately 75 per cent of funding,” Miller added. “Chronic underfunding has severely decreased the accessibility and quality of our education, and it is not sustainable.”
Provincial underfunding, as a counterpoint to the argument of a demographic shift in Ontario’s population, could easily make students weary about the increase.
Loss of revenue brought by a decrease in enrollment should be questioned by the surpluses U of G has seen since 2011. Miller referred to the University of Guelph Faculty Association Financial Analysis, which can be found online. The analysis reported that U of G saw a $25 million surplus in 2011, and a $26 million surplus in 2012.
“Treating U of G like a private business is resulting in larger class sizes, cuts to the diversity of programming offered, and increasingly precarious working conditions for those who teach at and maintain this University,” Chwalek concluded.
The increase in tuition, in the midst of budget cuts and growing student debt, could undermine the quality of education many students expect from a postsecondary institution. The Pay More Get Less campaign – organized by a coalition of the CSA, CUPE 1334 and 3913, OPIRG Guelph, and the Guelph Student Mobilization Committee – is working to involve students in demanding a freeze in tuition fees and an end to budget cuts at U of G.
“Students can get involved […] by joining the Pay More Get Less campaign’s action on April 16,” said Miller. “We will be gathering to go to the Board of Governors meeting, where the budget will be finalized, and voice our opposition to tuition fee increases and budget cuts.”
Students who are interested in learning more about 2015-16 proposed budget can request to attend the Board of Governors meeting via email, or gather at 1 p.m. in the UC courtyard with supporters of the Pay More Get Less campaign.