Volume 96, Issue 66
Tuesday, January 28, 2003

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USC calls for a fully-funded tuition freeze

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

Now that heavy-hitting student politicos are involved, the Ontario government is sure to listen.

After the approval of new statement policies at last Wednesday's council meeting, The University Students' Council is officially in favour of a fully-funded tuition freeze.

The statement on tuition freeze was part of a larger policy that was passed by council almost unanimously, with 46 of 48 votes in favour, and two abstentions, said Chris Sinal, USC president.

The policies call for both the freeze and the implementation of a multi-year tuition forecasting model, to allow students to better plan their education expenses – a change from the existing policy of the USC, Sinal explained, adding the statement outlines opposition to any increase in tuition beyond the rate of inflation.

"[The policy] emphasizes [a] desire from the USC to see a freeze in tuition [fees]," Sinal said.

According to USC VP-education Josh Morgan, statement policies are essentially the opinion of the organization, as opposed to a standing policy, which is treated like a bylaw and obligates action.

"[The new policy is] significant for Western, especially because [Western has] always been such a conservative school, and taking a stand on tuition is something that the USC, historically, hasn't done," Morgan said.

Morgan cited an April 2002 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report which claims that an average of 41 per cent of universities' operating budgets across Canada are drawn from students' pockets, nearly double the 22 per cent average seen in 1991.

Dave Ross, spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, said students' tuition fees are an important part of how the ministry funds a healthy post-secondary education system.

Ross said the government implemented a five-year tuition cap in 2001, with no more than a two per cent annual increase allowed. As far as a fully-funded freeze goes, Ross said that, for now, students must plan based on the current model.

"Students benefit from improved access and the investment of the increased fees in quality improvement," he said, noting there is no evidence of tuition fees deterring students from attending university.

"Unregulated programs, like engineering, are [relatively] more expensive to run," Ross continued. "Universities need to recover the additional costs for undergraduate and graduate programs [to provide students with] the best learning [environment] to succeed in the future."

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