By Dave Waddell
Despite protesting students’ filling up a meeting at the Toldo Health and Education Centre urging them to put the brakes on tuition fee hikes, the University of Windsor’s Board of Governors approved increases ranging from three to five per cent for domestic students this week.
Professional programs, such as business, computer science, engineering and law, will see increases of five per cent while programs in the arts and humanities will see a three per cent jump.
That’s the maximum allowed after the Ontario government put a cap on increases last year.
However, international students’ fees, which aren’t subject to the cap, will see increases as high as 9.6 per cent in some programs.
“I’m disappointed to hear costs are going up again,” said Rob Crawford, president of the University of Windsor’s Students Alliance.
“The real problem is the funding model being used for post-secondary education is unsustainable.
“Only 39 per cent of the university’s operating budget next year will come from government funding. That’s less than this year (45.8 per cent). Most of the budget is student tuition fees.
“If this continues, low-income students won’t be able to afford a university education and the income gap will grow.”
According to university figures, tuition fees will account for 55 per cent of next year’s operating budget. The remainder will come from other revenue sources.
The new fee schedule equates to annual increases for first-year, domestic students of $381.40 for business (total tuition $8,011.30), $392.80 for computer science ($8,249.50), $413.90 for engineering ($8,692.90), $764.20 for law ($16,048.60) and $85.85 for the humanities and arts ($5,895.80).
First-year international students will pay annual tuition of $20,500 (business), $19,000 (computer science), $21,500 (engineering), $27,580 (law) and $19,000 (arts and humanities).
Graduate programs for domestic students in engineering, business, social work and computer science will see a five per cent increase in the fall. Other programs in the arts and humanities which qualify for master’s degree will see a three per cent rise.
International students in those same programs will face increases ranging from 4.9 to 9.6 per cent.
University president/vice-chancellor Dr. Alan Wildeman said an increase was unavoidable.
“Our costs do go up every year,” Wildeman said. “About all of our costs are fixed. We have very little flexibility.”
With the tuition cap announced last year, Wildeman said the university is trying to “re-align” $5.8 million for next year’s budget. The students’ plea for a tuition freeze would’ve torn an even bigger hole in the university’s budget.
“The affordability issue has to be solved,” Wildeman said. “Ontario’s (tuition fees) are pretty close to the top in Canada. It’s also well known that government funding per capita for post-secondary students in Ontario is the lowest in the county.
“Universities are trying as much as they can to help students. There are more opportunities for student aid than in the past.”
Wildeman said 5,000 domestic students at the university are getting the Ontario Tuition Grant worth $1,600 annually. He also noted 30 per cent of the tuition fee increases are also set aside for scholarships and grants for domestic students.
Despite those efforts, the cost of university is leaving many students loaded down with debt.
Though 40 per cent leave school debt free, 18 per cent leave with less than $12,000 in debt while the remainder have in excess of that figure.
“Those figures are pretty consistent in Windsor, Ontario and across Canada,” Wildeman said. “However the data across Canada shows a university degree still pays off in the long run.”
In addition to rising tuition fees, students will see increases to all but one ancillary fee. The vast majority of those fees will rise by .9 per cent or less.
Students residing on campus will also see their costs rise by an average of 1.3 per cent.
On-campus accommodation, which includes a mandatory meal plan, will range from $4,962 to $7,181 depending on the type of room and building. (The Windsor Star)