Tuition fees capped

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At the beginning of March, Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities released a statement regarding tuition fees for the upcoming school year, 2012-2013. The tuition framework that was implemented in 2006 was extended for another year, which means that increasing tuition fees will continue to be capped at an institutional average of five per cent.

Although the minister of training, colleges and universities, Glen Murray, was unavailable for an interview, Tanya Blazina, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, explained in an e-mail that “the current tuition framework was set to expire at the end of 2011-2012, [but] was extended for an additional year, 2012-2013.” She added that during the next year, “The government will place a moratorium on increasing or establishing flat and deferral fees.”

However, because the framework was extended, the chance that tuition prices will be raised for both incoming and present post-secondary students is probable.

“Certain programs can go up at different rates as long as it averages out to five per cent as an institution,” explained Sean Madden, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and vice president of university affairs for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union.

Although the increase in tuition would not be steep, Blazina provided the figures for 2011-2012 average tuition increases, which were approximately $230 for about 70 per cent of university students, the raise in tuition nonetheless draws negative reactions.

“As far as students are concerned, we had actively hoped and lobbied for a freeze so that it would go up not at all,” Madden said in reference to the hope that the framework wouldn’t be extended. “If that couldn’t be the case, we had hoped that it would go up no more than inflation which is typically around two per cent. So, we are disappointed to see an extension of five per cent.”

When asked whether or not he believes the extension will be extended yet again for the 2013-2014 school year, Madden replied, “Everyone I’ve spoken to in the government is very, very interested in coming up with a new framework.”

“We aren’t sure how long that will be; it can be anywhere from three to five years but they seem very interested in putting in a new, full framework,” he added.
Blazina also wrote that “during the upcoming year, the government will consult with institutions, organizations and students to develop a new multi-year tuition policy for 2013-2014,” which includes “a system-wide approach for institutional deferral fee and flat fees.”

Madden said that although attention to deferral fees played a minor role in the extension, he hopes that in the future, “Certain assurances around how tuition is charged” will be put into place. According to Madden, about three quarters of Ontario universities demand the full tuition before September.
“That doesn’t work for people on OSAP, who get it in two disbursements,” he explained. “So we are hoping to get rid of deferral fees or we are hoping to get rid of certain ways that tuition is being charged.”

Does this have any connection to the recent 30 per cent tuition rebate afforded to numerous university students across the province?
According to Blazina it isn’t, however, Madden explained that the tuition frame work will have some affect on the grant.

“While the grant is … going to grow with the average cost of tuition, [if] tuition goes up five per cent then the grant will go up five per cent,” he said. Although this seems like a feasible solution, Madden went on to point out that the grant is only available for “about half the students in the province, “meaning that “those outside the grant will see a five per cent extra hard hit.”

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