Jacking up the cost
By Karena Walter
Western students can expect a 10 per cent increase in tuition next year as the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training announced yesterday it will give colleges and universities the ability to increase their fees.
Schools can increase average tuition by up to 10 per cent for the 1997-98 year and fees for any one program can be raised up to 20 per cent.
"Overall we will be looking to recoup that 10 per cent," said Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic. Moran said Western's Board of Governors expected the 10 per cent increase and a budget plan is virtually in place already. He said most undergraduate students can expect a 10 per cent increase.
"We're just pleased to finally have some information," he said, adding the university can now put their budget together. Within a week, a proposal of fees should be released, Moran added.
"We had hoped for a little more flexibility than 10 per cent," he explained. "With the kind of cutbacks we've been seeing over the years this fee increase doesn't make up for decreases we've been seeing over the past couple of years."
Elizabeth Speilbergs, an information officer at the Ministry of Education and Training, said by choosing the 10 per cent maximum across-the-board increase, the Ministry struck a good balance between what colleges and universities need to operate without putting too much burden on students.
"It's up to each university if they want to do the increase," she said.
"We're not happy about it at all," said Rick Martin, interim director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. He said the government said last year it would not increase tuition until a loan system was in place. "So clearly they broke their promise today."
"Obviously we were hoping for a zero per cent tuition increase," said Dave Tompkins, University Students' Council president. "It will be interesting to see the areas Western decides to raise the most and how much student input they will solicit on those decisions."
Input from students will be sought before the Board makes a final decision but ideas will have to be put forth quickly as the Board is targeting the final budget for the middle of March, Moran said.
He stressed the importance of students and administration working together to ensure that in the long run students will be able to manage the kind of debt loads they will incur.
"We think it's irresponsible of the government to do this without first implementing an [income contingent loan repayment plan]," Tompkins said.
"It is encouraging to see the additional funds pumped into OSAP, the new scholarship initiative and the increased focus on student bursaries, however, it's not enough."
Moran said the administration share the concern students have about not having a ICLRP in place yet and said both groups should continue to pressure the government for one. As well, the administration will make sure they have the best program of scholarships possible.
Another announcement by the government included increasing funds to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan by $150 million from 1995-96 amount. As well, loan forgiveness will be increased from $6,000 to $7,000 for OSAP loans issued after Aug. 1, 1997.
As well, the new Ontario Merit Scholarships, worth about $15 - $20 million will pay tuition for the top two per cent of students at colleges and universities in Ontario.
The scholarship announcement did not address OUSA's concerns though. "Student aid should be going to those who need it," Martin said. Although the measure was intended to attract top students to choose Canadian universities it is not going to help the average student at all, he said.
Martin said Ontario's students have been hit with a 200 per cent increase in tuition between 1985 and 1995 and students in Ontario pay a greater cost of their tuition than those at Harvard.
OUSA will continue to lobby and put pressure on the federal and provincial governments, Martin said. "We're going to be making our views known."