By Julie Alnwick
Students concerned about the school deregulating professional programs can take a breather.
“We’ve got another whole year before we’re even going to think about [deregulation],” says Ryerson’s v.p. administration and student affairs Linda Grayson. “If we’re going to look at it at all, it would probably be part of our macro-planning porcess, which would start next October or November.”
But that doesn’t mean students should stop worrying. Although Ryerson cannot begin deregulating until September, 2000 because administration decided last April to raise tuition 20 per cent over this year and next, professional programs such as applied computer science and engineering could be open to an unlimited tuition increase in the near future.
Deregulation of some Ontario postsecondary programs was introduced last May in the provincial government’s budget. This means university and college administrators can raise tuition as much as they want for government-specified programs. These include graduate business programs, dentistry, law, medicine, optometry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine.
At Ryerson, only two programs could face deregulation — applied computer science and engineering — because of a government initiative to increase enrolment in science and technology-based programs. If Ryerson did choose to deregulate these programs after 1999/2000 school year, more than 800 students would be affected.
“It’s a problematic issue,” says Grayson. “On the one hand, it could be really debilitating for specific programs.” On the other hand, she says the quality of the programs could suffer if the school doesn’t raise tuition at the same rate as others.
“Let’s say U of T deregulates and charges an additional $1,000 per student a year, and we don’t do that. That means we have $1,000 less per student a year to invest in the program,” says Grayson. “At what point does the quality of our program become so diluted compared to U of T’s program that no one wants to come to Ryerson? Even though it’s less money, the quality has been eroded.”
Erin George, RyeSAC’s v.p. education and president-elect, says the school shouldn’t even consider deregulation.
“I think we should be working on eliminating discriminatory policies like deregulation and working on re-establishing funding,” says George. “We’ve paid 60 per cent more in the last four years, but have we seen a 60-per-cent increase in the quality of our education?”
Universities such as McMaster, Western, York and U of T have already deregulated programs like medicine and law — first-year tuition at U of T’s med school went up 67 per cent to $7,844.
At York, the school’s board of governors approved a 20 per cent tuition increase for its law program three weeks ago. Students will now pay $4,648 for a full course load. The board also approved a 50-per-cent tuition increase for business administration and public administration master’s students, bringing their tuition to $7,500. And at Sheridan College, tuition for the computer animation program is $8,727 — up 480 per cent from 1997/1998.
But Grayson says Ryerson is looking at options to deregulate which include trying to get more provincial and federal grants and increasing revenue from ancillary operations such as the bookstore and food services.
Access to Opportunities Program (ATOP) was introduced by the provincial government at the same time as deregulation. ATOP’s goal is to double enrolment in science and technology-based postsecondary programs by 2003/2004. The program was created in response to industry complaints about the lack of computer science graduates and electrical and computer engineers. The government has committed more than $150 million to ATOP.
Ryerson’s applied computer science program decided to double its enrolment by the year 2000. In return, the program will get $3,500 from ATOP for each additional student. The electrical engineering program chose to raise enrolment by 20 per cent, meeting the minimum increase required for grant eligibility.
Meanwhile, according to Ryerson’s projected budget, tuition will rise another 9.09 per cent in September, bringing the school’s tuition increase to an even 20 per cent over two years. The province’s tuition fee guidelines only cover the next school year, so it isn’t yet known whether the provincial government will allow universities to raise tuition after the year 2000.