Volume 95, Issue 79

Thursday, February 21, 2002
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Who will cry for the lawyers?

'Reading' week: more party, less read

Celine Dion loves Western research

Who will cry for the lawyers?

U of T law will soon cost $22,000

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

It's official – the University of Toronto's law school may soon have the highest law tuition in all of Canada.

The law faculty's council recently approved a five-year plan which calls for tuition to increase annually by $2,000 to a total of $22,000 per year.

Louis Charette, chair of the Young Lawyers Conference for the Canadian Bar Association, said he was concerned students from lower income backgrounds may no longer have access to legal education as a result of this decision.

Students may be forced to work while in school, impacting their mental and physical health, he said.

"Grades are the primary access to the law market," Charette said, adding the tuition increase may most affect grade performance.

Charette said he is also concerned the move may cause a brain drain upon graduation, with students taking jobs out of country in order to pay off high student debts.

"We then lose them to New York, London and Paris," he said.

Cheryl Sullivan, spokeswoman for the U of T faculty of law, said the deliberation process leading up to the final draft of the proposal was a year in the making.

"A [rough] draft was circulated within the law school community, with student, staff and faculty input. Changes were made and then the final draft was prepared," Sullivan said.

"Accessibility has been a big part of the debate – and we are fairly progressive in financial aid forms," she added, noting there are provisions for financial aid. Law scholarships at the school are needs-based and the faculty will be giving out $1.56 million this year.

To counter fears that students may not be able to afford to take lower paying jobs or may leave the country for higher wages upon graduation, Sullivan said the faculty will pay the interest and principal on student loans for any student who qualify for such assistance.

Benjamin Shinewald, president of the Students' Law Society at U of T, said he is most concerned about access.

"A lot of students are concerned tuition of $22,000 will hinder people with more modest financial backgrounds," he said.

Only three student members of the faculty council voted for the proposal. Shinewald was one, though he said the plan should have been implemented at a slower rate. "It is more prudent to have $1,000 increases as opposed to $2,000 to ensure accessibility," he said.

Claire Hunter, a second-year law student and elected representative to the faculty council, was also on the task force that came up with the final numbers included in the proposal.

"We started from the expenditures side, with what we wanted to have and then basically just trimmed the budget," she said.

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