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Tuition capped for five years
By John Intini
The Ontario government announced a five year cap on undergraduate tuition rates yesterday, which would prohibit post-secondary institutions from increasing rates by more than two per cent a year.
Dianne Cunningham, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, who made the announcement, said the decision was an attempt to allow students to better plan for the cost of education, explained Ministry spokesperson Dave Ross. The cap would effect regulated degree programs and come into effect for the 2000-01 academic year.
University Students' Council president SzeJack Tan said since the cap was so close to Canada's annual inflation rate, the decision essentially created a tuition freeze. "Students did well today," Tan said, adding this was a great turnaround from a decision made two years ago, when the government permitted universities to increase tuition by up to 20 per cent over two years.
Ryan Parks, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, said he was happy about the long-term nature of the announcement. "We were calling for a freeze and this essentially is a freeze," he said.
Parks said he thought this announcement, in part, was an effort by the Ontario conservative government to follow through on a campaign promise which guaranteed students would not have to pay for more then 35 per cent of the total cost of their education.
However, not all student lobby groups were pleased with the announcement. Joel Harden, Ontario chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, described the plan as a slap in the face to students. He said those who supported it have no problems with the current rates of tuition. "Our point of view is that the average rate of tuition in Ontario, which is around $3,800, is unacceptable," he said.
Peter Mercer, Western's VP-administration, said the announcement will put the quality of education in jeopardy. "The government is tying the hands of universities," he said. "If I was a student, I would be concerned."
Mercer said Ontario's post-secondary system remains Canada's least funded. He added the government was unclear as to how schools could provide the same levels of education without control of their main source of operational income.
He explained since 30 per cent of tuition income must be put towards student aid, the five year maximum increase was only about seven per cent in real economic terms.
Cunningham also announced university's operational grants for the 2000-01 academic year will be approximately $1.7 billion, up $52 million from last year, Ross said.
He added for the first time, part of the money will be allocated based on a university's performance. Sixteen and a half million would be distributed based on three indicators graduation rates and grad employment rates after six months and after two years, he said.
Parks added the increase in operational funding only amounts to a 3.25 per cent increase, which was inadequate. He also said it would be important for lobby groups to continue working for the betterment of students.
"We have to push the issue that students are still suffering," he said.