By Renata D’Aliesio
“No more tuition hikes” was the plea of Ryerson students to Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse at Monday and Tuesday’s townhall meetings.
“I don’t have that much more to give,” said Peggy Ferguson, a continuing education student. “My budget can’t support the cuts made to the university, but the government can. Why are you asking us?”
It was a question never answered.
Lajeunesse does not know how much money Ryerson will get from the government this year, but he knows it won’t be more than last year’s grant.
Dr. Dennis Mock, vice president academics, told students the university has made all possible cutbacks.
“I think we are at the end of our belt tightening. I don’t think we can find more inefficiencies,” said Mock.
But most students have tightened their belts to the limit.
Many eyes swelled up with tears when Erin George addressed the panel. The second-year journalism student told the townhall she is working 40 hours a week at three part-time jobs just to pay her way through university.
“I don’t want to be in debt when I get out of school,” said George on the brink of tears. “It is very hard — mentally, emotionally and physically.”
Lajeunesse plans to propose an equal tuition increase for all programs next Monday to the finance committee. Graduate programs at Ryerson may see a greater hike.
Ryerson’s Vice President of Administration Linda Grayson said the university must reinvest in its programs and services.
Lajeunesse said he is focused on improving the library and physical environment. He wants to increase financial support for students having a hard time coping with tuition hikes.
“Some students can afford to pay a higher tuition and for the students who will have difficulty with the increase we will provide them with additional help,” said Lajeunesse.
RyeSAC President Victoria Bowman does not believe increasing financial aid is a useful method to combat rises in tuition.
“Increasing student assistance is not a viable mechanism for supporting students,” said Bowman. “It never has and it never will be because we know a heavy debt load is a deterrent.”
Between 20 and 30 students attended each townhall meeting. Lajeunesse reminded them government cutbacks have affected administration too.
“We must take into account the sacrifices that our employees made over the years,” said Lajeunesse. “It is not reasonable to ask them to take more cutbacks.”
Grayson pointed to the four days without pay and salary freezes staff has had to incur.
But some Ryerson students struggling to made rent are left wondering if they will have enough money to come back to school next year.
“I just want to know when is it going to stop?” asked a student wearing a blue sweat top with Ryerson written across the chest.