November 20, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 46  

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NEWS

Tuition freeze needs full funding: critics

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

The Ontario Liberal government’s pledge to freeze tuition is moving full speed ahead, but critics warn the freeze may hurt universities already suffering from budget shortfalls.

“The government has said many times that it’s committed to a tuition freeze,” said Dave Ross, spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

However, a release by the Dominion Bond Rating Service said the pledge carried with it “significant uncertainty for the credit ratings of Ontario universities.”

A poor rating would signal a high risk to investors, reducing the chance that bonds will be purchased. This would impair the ability of universities to raise money to pay for capital projects.

Ross rebuked criticisms by saying the opinions are based on an incomplete picture.

Western is not rated by DBRS or any bond rating service as it currently has no bonds issued, said Stu Finlayson, a treasurer in Western’s financial services department. The university, however, is considering issuing bonds as a future option, he noted.

“We’re extremely anxious about the impact of the tuition freeze,” said Western’s VP-academic Greg Moran. “If there is no compensatory funding from the Ministry, it will be disastrous.”

Moran said Western is currently underfunded and is still reeling as a result of cuts imposed by the previous Progressive Conservative government. In one year alone, funding was cut by 15 per cent, he said.

Yet Western’s administration is prepared to talk with the new Liberal government. “We believe we have to work with the government,” Moran stated. “All of the signals that we have from the government is that they are aware of [the situation].”

At the moment, very few details about the tuition freeze have been released. Moran said he feels “anxious, cautious and guardedly optimistic.”

University Students’ Council VP-education Dave Ford said students should be happy with the tuition freeze, but only if it is fully funded by the government.

“What we don’t want is a tuition freeze that means a reduction in quality,” Ford said. “We need funding and we need a significant amount of money to be put into the financial aid system. These things have to happen in concert.”

Ford said the government would have to inject $80 million into universities as part of the tuition freeze to cover the funds that would otherwise be raised by a tuition increase of two per cent in regulated and 10 per cent in deregulated programs.
Ross could not confirm any numbers, saying the details are still being worked on.

 

 

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