in support of disagreement; against raising tuition

by erinohsays

Today I gave a speech at a meeting of the Governing Council, the body that oversees all of the high level decisions that are made at the University of Toronto. I pointed out that the people with voting rights in the room had often not even bothered to raise their hands when it came time to vote on important issues. Aside from that, I asked that they please not vote in favour of increasing tuition. Following my speech, the final vote was called for increasing tuition. Everyone shot up their hands enthusiastically. Unanimously, the University of Toronto voted in favour of increasing tuition fees. After the vote, the chair of Governing Council said, “Ms. Oldynski, I’d like to point out that EVERYONE voted that time.”

Too bad the point was not for Governors to vote *more enthusiastically* in favour of tuition fee increases and serve as a final rubber stamp on a pre-made decision, but rather to have actual *debate and disagreement* on such issues.

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To the University of Toronto Governing Council:

Last month I addressed the University of Toronto Business Board and spoke against the proposed 4% tuition increase for most graduate programs and the proposed 6 to 8% tuition increase for some doctoral and professional master’s degree programs at the University of Toronto. At this meeting of the Business Board, members voted to support tuition fee increases. I would like to note, however, that when it came to the vote, a majority of members neither voted for nor against, nor did they raise their hands to signify an abstention from voting. It is disheartening to see this level of non-participation among voting members on the single most important issue for all students in this province.

However, I am here today to respond to the recent provincial announcement of a revised tuition fee framework for 2013 – 2014. Graduate students are pleased to see that this new framework reduces the cap on tuition fee increases for incoming graduate students from 8% to 5%. However, we are disappointed to see that the University plans to increase tuition fees for international students from an average of 5.6% to an average of 7.2%. Although the University of Toronto justifies its high tuition fees for international students by comparing itself to private universities in the United States, the University of Toronto remains one of the most expensive universities in this country for international students.

Graduate students understand that Ontario public funding for post-secondary education is 23% below the Canadian average and that this insufficient funding forces the University to find other ways of balancing its budget. Overwhelmingly, however, proposed solutions by the University continue to place a greater share of the burden onto international students and their families.

As I previously stated at the Business Board meeting, we hope you agree that education is a right and that pursuing graduate studies should be affordable and accessible for everyone, regardless of income or citizenship. Post-secondary education is a social equalizer only if everyone is ensured equal access. The Graduate Students’ Union is therefore calling on the University of Toronto Governing Council to introduce post residency fees – reduced fees during the thesis-writing stage of degrees – for all graduate students, both domestic and international.

High tuition fees for domestic graduate students and even higher fees for international graduate students have created a huge incentive for students to pursue studies elsewhere. If the University of Toronto wishes to increase graduate enrollment, shorten graduate completion times, and increase retention rates, post-residency fees must be reinstated.

Although the University of Toronto has instituted post-residency fees for the final year of PhD studies, we are calling for the introduction of post-residency fees for the entire post-residency period of our studies. Graduate students who finish the course component of our degrees and are working on our research utilize fewer university resources. We also make significant labour and research contributions to the core functions of the university. Reducing fees during this period would therefore recognize that senior graduate students are a net gain in resources for the University.

A report by the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies reveals that as many as one third of doctoral students in Canada do not graduate at all. This amounts to lost personal investments for students, additional costs for the post-secondary education system, and a failure to graduate skilled individuals.

We hope that you will seriously consider how the introduction of post-residency fees for the entire post-residency period of all graduate programs would result in a net-gain both for the University of Toronto and for graduate students. We look forward to working with you to make graduate studies truly accessible for everyone.

Sincerely,

Erin Oldynski, External Commissioner

Graduate Students’ Union, University of Toronto

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