Point: Hiked tuition rates unacceptable

While the Ontario government claims to be working on improving assistance for students, there still remains a lot to be desired when it comes to the issue of tuition rates. These rates are responsible for funding the university experience such as paying faculty wages and improving non-student union facilities, like the library. At Laurier, I’d like to envision that the $5,746 that I pay yearly to the university is responsible for providing and maintaining a quality education.

But that simply isn’t true. With the freeze or cap of tuition rates, students pay a maximum increase of five per cent (as voted to continue for two more years by Queen’s Park). The rate of inflation, according to the Bank of Canada, from 2009 to 2010 was 1.92 per cent. If this is the case, there is approximately a three per cent gap between inflationary growth and tuition hikes; a net increase in overall funding, in addition to the $9.8 million increased grant funding.

Take a look around: do we see evidence of that increase in funding? Classes are uncomfortably overenrolled, there are less and less quality part-time faculty now and the near elimination of TAs from all academic classes just shows me that Laurier’s quality of education is diminishing. There’s a disjoint between the growth of the university’s budget and the quality of education.

The school should be fiscally responsible with the resources they have. If they keep raising tuition, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) must follow accordingly: we know that won’t happen.

If Laurier can’t focus on keeping its claim as being a university of Canadian excellence, then the focus must shift to access. Accessibility is clearly the number one priority now: prestige and elitism associated with a university education are gone. There is no reason why tuition cannot be rolled back to the national average.

Accessibility to higher education shouldn’t be limited by financial status: if I am limited to choosing certain schools it shouldn’t be based on cost. Too many students choose not to pursue further education because they think they cannot afford it. Raising the tuition of universities will only widen the gap between the rich and poor and the educated and non-educated. With higher tuition costs comes the possibility of higher bursary programs, but the sticker shock associated with these costs would overshadow any possibility of need-based financial aid to students attending Laurier.

We should feel we have earned our education and our place in university, not that mommy and daddy have signed off on our degree. Lower tuition serves to even the financial playing ground in terms of access for all who can make the admissions cut off. One of the reasons I chose Laurier was that they had a commitment to find a way to help you pay should you be accepted. Now it’s seemingly in reverse, finding ways to let everyone in to balance the budget.

I doubt that the accountants who do our budgeting walk around Laurier during rush hours, or try to use the wireless internet, or even wait in line for a bus. The issue isn’t that the university must suppress growth because of lower tuition, but that it must grow inwardly before it can grow outwardly. If we are not receiving quality education in Ontario then we should not be asked to pay more than other provinces. Roll tuition back in Ontario to a reasonable level to at least preserve accessibility for all students regardless of wealth.

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