Head to head over tuition hikes at Board of Governors meeting

Lawrence, along with 13 other RSU members and students, protested the tuition increase by laying out a “red carpet of student debt,” a red cloth with the title “Hikes Stop Here,” outside the room before the meeting began. (Matt Oxman / Ryersonian staff)

Lawrence, along with 13 other RSU members and students, protested the tuition increase by laying out a “red carpet of student debt,” a red cloth with the title “Hikes Stop Here,” outside the room before the meeting began. (Matt Oxman / Ryersonian staff)

Ryerson’s Board of Governors (BOG) and members of the Ryerson Students’ Union have faced off over a proposed tuition hike.

At a BOG meeting Monday, board member Paul Stenton said a tuition hike is crucial to maintaining the university’s operating budget.

However, student spokesperson Roshelle Lawrence complained not only about the proposed hike, but also about how the potential increase is being handled.

Lawrence, vice-president of education with the RSU, has previously stated that the vote should not be held at the end of April, when most students will be off campus.

Stenton, vice-provost of the university planning office, told Monday’s meeting that a tuition freeze is impractical.

“What happens if we don’t increase tuition and do a one-year tuition freeze? Well after 10 years, we would lose $75 million in tuition revenue,” said Stenton. “After 25 years, that number goes up to $250 million.”

Lawrence, along with 13 other RSU members and students, protested the tuition increase by laying out a “red carpet of student debt,” a red cloth with the title “Hikes Stop Here,” outside the room before the meeting began.

Lawrence asked the Ryerson BOG to freeze tuition increases and to write a letter to the provincial government asking for more funding.

She also brought a petition of 5,000 signatures against the tuition increase.

Lawrence said that the Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) was successful last week when it asked its own BOG to take both steps.

Lauren Montgomery, vice-president external of the GSA, confirmed that the motion to write the letter passed. Their representative will work with the Carleton BOG to write it.

Stenton’s presentation to the BOG said that students are doing better than ever with education costs.

He credits an influx of government grants, including the Ontario tuition grant, education, tuition and tax credits and other financial assistance. Lawrence disagreed.

“Grants aren’t helping every student,” she said. “Students are budgeting better but with more work, more stress and more studying. “Grants just make you feel comfortable when you are looking at funding fees.”

Stenton also opposed the new tuition rules set out by the Ontario government where students can pay their tuition in instalments each term, without paying deferral fees or interest charges. He said this means a $1 million loss of revenue for the university.

“Ryerson is not a rich university if you look at operating budget per student,” Stenton said.

The meeting discussed the potential hike in light of the provincial government’s announcement of a three per cent tuition increase cap for the next four years.

Announced in March of last year, the new hike limit is down from the previous five per cent cap on tuition increases.

Mohamed Zidan, a third-year economics student who attended the meeting, is opposed to the  increases.

“In Europe, they have very good quality free education,” Zidan said. “There’s no reason why we can’t have this too. Of course, the political climate isn’t geared for that, but the question is, why aren’t we demanding this?”

Government policy may limit the overall institution hike to three per cent, but larger increases for some programs are permitted.

Undergraduate professional programs, such as engineering, architectural science, computer science and Ted Rogers School of Management, and all graduate programs can see a maximum increase of five per cent for their first-year students.

Current students in the same programs have a maximum four per cent increase.

The Board of Governors will officially vote on the tuition increase on April 28.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on April 2, 2014.

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